The Thing

This is a monster movie, right? I’m ok with monster movies, though the cover makes me wonder if its going to have horror tones to it. Multiple people have told me that this is great though, so I guess I’m tentatively optimistic about this one…


John Carpenter’s The Thing ended up being a very interesting experience for me. As we have established, I don’t do well with horror. And when we had the gruesome monster reveal scenes (the Norwegian Base was somewhat okay, because it was all static – it was the dogs that first got me), I was put off. That isn’t my idea of fun. But it was relatively short sequence, and it had some resolution to it. It wasn’t just there for a laugh, or a side show. It was a plot point. So after the gore was out of the way, the movie got back to being good. But more importantly, the story was materially different. Having being confronted with this horrific scene, characters did what characters do best – they reacted.

The horror element served a narrative purpose. It had a point. That is important.

When I think about The Thing in comparison to Braindead, the difference is stark. In Braindead, the gore is intended to be funny in its own right. This did not resonate with me, at all. And without that point to carry it, I was deaf to the entire appeal of the movie. In contrast, The Thing is a very well executed shapeshifter story, with all the right elements to make it work (isolated environment, large cast of characters, and plenty of existing tensions for the mounting paranoia to play on). Each instance of horror was relatively short, and served to move the story along and spur the situation to greater heights of drama. This is something I understand and am able to appreciate.

Don’t get me wrong. I still can’t honestly say I enjoyed the gory horror scenes. I am too squicked out by it all for that. But since they were presented within the framework of a good story, I can at least say that they added more to my overall enjoyment of the movie than what they took away. That is a huge deal for me.

Maybe its not so much that I can’t handle gore, but merely that I cannot handle gore for it’s own sake.

screenshot-med-353

Good:

  • Dogs. The dogs were good.
  • Really sensible horror movie precautions. MacReady made some mistakes but the fact that he beat the thing was no accident.
  • Despite some of them never really making it past one-note status, I quite liked the group of characters.
  • Flamethrowers!

Bad:

  • THE DOG DIED
  • Nitpicks about the various explosions. Most of them involved more fire than was appropriate – which is inkeeping with the theme of the movie, I guess.
  • *grumbles about gore*

Adding a new ODBC Linked Table TableDef in MS Access

Yesterday I was given a brief to create a small tool that would update the ODBC Linked Tables in various Access databases. The catch: the database to which the linked table refers is moving platform (DB2 to Oracle) and has a new schema name. The former is easily manageable using the built-in Linked Table Manager in Access, but the latter is more difficult – the SourceTableName (called the ForeignName in Access’ internal schema) cannot be changed on an existing Linked Table, even programatically. Thus, my only option was the delete and recreate each Linked Table definition with the proper values.

Easier said than done. While attempting to append a new Tabledef to an access database, I encountered a rather vexingly obtuse of error;

This error occured while attempting to Append() my new table definition on to the database. Google indicated that either my ISAM drivers were corrupted, or my connection string was wrong. Well, I’m trying to use ODBC not ISAM, so I assumed that the reference to ISAM and any related driver issues were a red herring.

Below is the C# code snippet that generated the error. (It has been simplified, removing many of the form-specific elements.) It is in essence reading a list of TableDefs from a list box (where their names had been previously populated, allowing the user to choose which ones to update) and then attempting to create a new TableDef with the same name but a different connection string and SourceTableName.

The connection string for tbdNew I drew from Access’ internal MSysObjects table – I created a new linked table to the new location, and took a look at the resulting object record;

Capture

This of course, is what led me astray. The Connect value in the table above and the TableDef.Connect property of a TableDef object are related, but not identical. The connection string in the code snippet above isn’t complete – I needed to have ODBC; added to the start (as below). I discovered this by examining the TableDef of the new Linked Table and noticing that the Connect property did not match the Connect table value above. Once I made this addition, everything started working fine;

After running the code and examining the resulting Linked Table objects in MsSysObjects, I could see that ODBC; had been trimmed from the front, bearing out my theory. I suspect that without the ODBC; tag to tell Access that it is meant to be an ODBC linked table, it by default assumes that you are connecting to an ISAM data source, and starts looking for a driver – which it of course cannot find, leading to the ISAM error above.

Fury

I remember wanting to see Fury. The trailers looked good, and I had a couple of friends tell me that they enjoyed it. One described it as ‘a love story between some men and their tank’, and I thought that turn of phrase quite appealing. Alas, I missed it in the cinemas, and promptly forgot all about it until it came through as a recommendation for inclusion on The List.

Thus, I’ve been looking forward to Fury, more than any other movie so far. Here’s to hoping it lives up to my expectation.


Holy shit. That was intense.

Fury is one of those war movies that tries to tell it like it is. Dirty, hectic, and truly unfair. It has the pretense of unvarnished truth. Is war actually like that? Fucked if I know, but it makes for a hell of a different experience compared to a movie that glosses over the dirtier elements of warfare. This goes right up to the worst depredations that an invading army can inflict (though without actually going there, thank god – but the scene in question was tense enough that it left me wondering right up til the last moment).

And that last stand. I am floored. It was so incredibly well put together that I couldn’t help but feel the elation of the early successes, and the successive heart wrenches as, one by one, the crew finally bought it. Just…wow. Sad, horribly sad, but moving. But the thing that struck me most was that we are never told if it was worth it. I mean, there were a lot of dead Nazis – there is no doubt that they acquitted themselves admirably. But was it enough? They were holding there to protect the supply line and the wounded, but we are never told if the remains of that force that passed by them went on to do the damage they sought.

That said, I guess none of them ever got to know either. Damn.

Good:

  • Excellent characters. They were archetypal enough to feel familiar from the outset, but developed into pretty complex individuals. Not a lot of war stories manage that.
  • I didn’t hate Shia LeBouf in this movie. It was an odd experience.
  • I loved the stylistic decision to show the fire of weapons larger than handheld using streaks of colour. I’m fairly sure it wasn’t realistic, but it did add a lot to my ability to follow what the hell was going on, and I really appreciated it. I noted it especially on the glancing blows – you were able to actually see that the tank was struck, but not damaged.
  • The action in general. Just wow.
  • The tanks were actually depicted as being fairly slow.

Bad:

  • I don’t think I actually have anything bad to say about this one. I am trying to think of something, but really, nothing comes to mind. Watch Fury.

Bonus Round: Deadpool

When I first heard the rumors of a Deadpool movie, I laughed. It was a sad laugh, though. I was laughing not because the idea was ridiculous, but because it was probably true, and that they would definitely fuck it up.

Then the first trailer came out. And if I wasn’t sold, well, it seemed like maybe there was some hope. And then the second trailer came out and…I became cautiously optimistic. And then the movie came out, and people whose opinions I usually trusted were saying good things. It was only then that I decided that I needed to see Deadpool.


The Deadpool movie was exactly what I wanted, and what I had come to expect based on the trailers and comments I had seen. It is funny, irreverent and hyperviolent in all the ways that Deadpool aught to be. It was a very good page-to-screen translation of the essence of Deadpool, without feeling overly concerned about faithfulness to the details of the source material. His new backstory is a good adjustment that drops unnecessary canon connections without losing the impact of the events, which was a breath of fresh air.

On the subject of the humor, I can say that nothing offended me. This statement is of course utterly useless – demographically, there was approximately zero risk that this movie was going to push my buttons. I’m not going to even try to point out any potentially offensive things, because while I did spot a couple of potential pain points, I’m not really the right person to talk about them. Your mileage may vary. That said, overall I think they avoided many of the bad and offensive pitfalls that could have very easily plagued it.

The biggest takeaway for me was the fact that all the best jokes were taking the piss out of current era superhero films. I laughed uproariously at the jabs at Green Lantern, Wolverine and Nick Fury and the like. Because, if we are quite honest, superhero movie canon has reached the point where it needs to be made fun of. It needs some comic relief, and Deadpool fills that niche like a glove. Events are bombastic enough that they need to be taken light of, and the plot threads of the current MCU canon are getting progressively more tangled and show no signs of straightening out any time soon. It is a shame that, as a Fox production, Deadpool was greatly hampered in its ability to make fun of the MCU, which needs it even more than the X-Men or DCU.

He isn’t a hero, but Deadpool is what comic book movies need right now. A ridiculous parody, a sharp wit. A merc with a mouth.

skullpoopl

Good:

  • I wish I had a big brother like Colossus.
  • And the obnoxious teenage mutant (whose name escapes me, it was long and ridiculous) reminded me a LOT of my younger sister. In a good way, of course.
  • Really funny. Can’t stress this enough. I haven’t laughed that hard at a movie in quite some time.
  • The opening credits sequence was a really great idea.

Bad:

  • Maybe a few more naked ladies than were strictly required. Not that I am complaining, mind.
  • This bullet point is breaking the fourth wall.

Mercury Rising

No preamble this week – I forgot until right as I started the movie, and I felt like eating while the buffalo wings were still hot!


Mercury Rising was pretty enjoyable, if nothing special. I think I must have seen it before – the premise seemed kinda familiar, and there were a few shots later in the movie that stuck out as starkly familiar. But I couldn’t remember anything about the film, so no harm done. I don’t think I can really recommend it in terms of being a compelling story or great acting (except for maybe Simon), but at least the theme of the movie was quite interesting.

I don’t really know much about autism – most of what I presume to know comes from movies like this one, ironically. But I found it pretty interesting that it seemed to make a real point about contrasting different reaction to Simon, from ‘mistake of nature’ comments from the antagonist right up to the kind of caring acceptance of his parents. And while you could more or less tell if a character was good or not based on their original reaction to Simon’s condition, I remember there being a couple of curve balls, characters who spoke badly of him out of ignorance who later came around. I appreciate that, because that’s how people are. Even quite mindful people need to be corrected every now and again.

Simon_on_GEX_Skydeck

Good:

  • As always, I have a weakness of cute nerd ladies in TV/movies. And, you know, in life.
  • IDK, the wings were pretty good.

Bad:

  • No, not even a savant can just read a cryptographic code worth half a damn.
  • Man, this movie was 90s as fuck. I’ve been watching quite a few recently, mind, and it’s not a big deal but….wow. 90s.
  • Really poor helicopter piloting
  • The love interest lady in general. Yawn.

Everything Is Illuminated

Never heard of it, no real idea what to expect. Though based purely on the name, I am expecting something somewhat slower paced and contemplative. Either a glacial drama, or something slow and weird.


As luck would have it, both my guesses were correct. Everything Is Illuminated is a slow, weird drama.

Not that this is a bad thing in any way, of course. As soon as I realized that the primary goal of the movie was to uncover a story of the past, a story related The Holocaust – well, there are few happy endings in those stories, and I starting preparing myself for it. But the better part of the movie was spent in the getting there, touring the Ukrainian countryside in search of a town that is no longer on the map. And the getting there was quite good, lighthearted fun.

The story is about a distinctly peculiar American Jewish boy named Jonathan, a nerd with an obsession about his family and a collection to match it, and his goal to find the town where his grandfather was from. Which would have been a very dull movie if not for Alex, a colourful local with a almost-but-not-quite good grasp of english, and his cranky grandfather. A lot of good humor is made at the expense of ‘JonFen’ and his peculiar American ideas (and his other peculiarities, which are very much his own), and as a result the major part of the movie is quite a mood booster.

Which is good, because Act 3 wrecked me. It is, after all, a Holocaust story.

illuminated-house

Good:

  • Elijah Wood sells the hell out of his role as an awkwardly formal nerd.
  • Excellent soundtrack consisting entirely of (what I assume to be) Ukrainian music
  • Alex’s english. It is very proximal to correct, yes?
  • Overall charming presentation
  • Jonathan’s obvious culture shock upon returning to America

Bad:

  • This is a slow movie. This didn’t prove a problem for me, because I was quite happy to slow to match it.
  • *gross sobbing* I like sad movies, but they DO make me sad.