Saturday, February 28, 2009

Burn After Reading (Comedy 2008)

In general I tend to hate anything that the Coen brothers create because their writing and directing skills suck a nut, but this one was actually partially entertaining.

This movie was straight-up crazy. The characters were nuts, their purpose in life was nuts, and yeah....every flowed in between those lines. The movie probably would've sucked a whole lot more if they hadn't have convinced such a great mix of actors to participate. John Malkovich is already a crazy person, Brad Pitt was very believable, and Clooney pretty much played the same character he always does.

I would categorize this film under the black comedy folder, but really it was an insane movie that was a 100% waste of time. I did chuckle a lot though...
Rating - C

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Red Cliff 2 (Foreign Chinese War Drama 2009)

I watched the first movie and was pretty impressed with John Woo's work. Most of his stuff that reaches US shores are usually tilted more towards the action and less on the story, but this 2-part film definitely had a story. I'm not sure why I didn't review the first part, but it was probably a B-rated movie if you're wondering. This film was the second portion that finished off the whole story. The first part ended in the same abrupt manner that the first LOTR did, so it was a nice to get back into the story.

The films were based on some really old story/book that had some historical significance in Chinese history/classics. I merely saw it as a neat war movie. The acting was pretty good, as were the warfare scenes. The primary chick, Chiling Lin, was damn hot; most likely taking the crown in the category of Asian female actors. Everyone else were dudes so they're not really worth mentioning.

For a historical war drama, this was pretty good. I'm sure some deeper value would've come out of it if I were raised on such stories/characters, but it was still a good watch nonetheless.
Rating - B

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Animated Sci-Fi Action 2008)

Yeah I know...I also heard of how shitty this movie was. I kinda still don't understand how this made it into theaters when more-less the same thing can be seen on Cartoon Network.

This animated film added more story to the already long stretch of time that existed between EP2 and EP3. The story was a simple Star Wars one: Anakin is given a mission to rescue Jabba's son, all the while having this Padawan chick tailing him as she attempted to add some quirky one-liners into the mix.

Quite honestly the movie wasn't all that bad. It just seemed like a longer-than-usual TV episode. As a standalone, it was still many times better than The Phantom Menace, but I think I would've been pissed if I had wasted money seeing this in a theatre.
Rating - C

Painted Skin (Foreign Chinese Action Drama 2008)

This movie was a newish flick that came out of HK. It was about a chick who was actually a demon who seduced men and ate their hearts. Yeah I'm sure regular Chinese peeps don't find that premise odd, but it just sounds hokey to me.

The fight scenes were decent enough. It's the first time I've seen the use of shields in an actual Asian combat scene, not counting large-scale battles. The solders used spears and a small buckler; pretty original with an interesting fighting style. Unfortunately these fighting scenes were few and far between because the actual story revolved around the drama created among this demon chick, the main guy, and his wife. Was the drama any good? I didn't think so.

The story was fair, but at the end it kinda got stupid. In a small nutshell the wife calls it quits and allows the demon to "win" with the promise that the demon would take care of her husband after she died. This climatic scene made no sense to me. It's totally letting the bad guy win for no apparent reason or guarantee that any promises would be kept. Perhaps this is just another cultural thing I just don't understand...

This movie falls right in the middle. It had a few good parts but there were equally as many bad ones. I'm not sure if I'll remember this six months down the road.
Rating - C

Monday, February 16, 2009

Asus N80VN-GP011C (2008 Laptop)

I picked this model because I wanted a souped up 14" system that was able to play games decently. The stats on this system were pretty maxed out so no upgrades were necessary. This turned out to be one of those systems that looked good on paper, but you really wish you could've played with it before purchasing it. I did get it for around $850 because of the seasonal Live.com cashback scheme, so it seemed like a good time to pull the trigger.

Stats
  • Windows Vista Home Premium x86
  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz 1066MHz FBS 3MB L2 Cache
  • Intel PM45 Chipset
  • 14.1" 1280x800 LED WXGA
  • 4GB DDR2 800MHz RAM
  • 320GB Hitachi 5400RPM SATA
  • DVD Super Multi
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9650M GT 1GB DDr2
  • Atheros AR928X BGN WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Webcam 1.3MP
  • 6-cell lithium ion
  • 90-watt AC adapter
  • Dimensions 13.39" x 9.84" x 1.43-1.46"
  • Weight 5.71 lbs.
  • 2 Year Warranty
  • 1 x Express Card
  • 5 x USB
  • 1 x IEEE 1394
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x CIR for remote controller
  • 1 x eSATA
  • 1 x Microphone-in jack
  • 1 x Headphone-out jack (S/PDIF)
  • 1 x 8 in 1 card reader, SD,MMC,MS,MS-Pro,mini SD
Build and Design
The build is O.K.. It's made from pretty hard plastic, both for the LCD backing as well as the main chassis. It is of the glossy plastic variety which makes it look like a toy as well as being a fingerprint repository. I personally like the look of boring, business laptops, but good luck on finding a real video card in one of those.

Traveling with the laptop was much better than a 15.4", but it was still a tad too heavy. Getting either a 13.3" or a 12" with no DVD drive might still be the best bet for road warriors. Seriously...how often does a person use their DVD drive if not to just install or rip stuff?

Display
The LED backlighting makes the LCD way too bright. I always have to turn it down 3-4 notches before my eyes can be comfortable with it. If I don't, my eyes will start hurting after 20-30 minutes. Good thing is that the backlighting drains less electricity, so by turning it down you're saving even more. While playing games there is some ghosting if you play FPSs...that coupled with the fact that it is only a 60hz LCD. I usually have it connected to an external, 75hz LCD so most visual issues are quickly forgotten.

The camera on the top is pretty crappy compared to all standalones out there, but oh well.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard sucks ass and is the worse part of this laptop by far. The right side is decent, but the left side is very clacky and is totally loose. I took the liberty of taking it apart to see what the cause was, and it turned out to be that the right side is supported by a single screw that you remove from the bottom of the laptop while the left side has nothing. Because of this, there is a 2-3mm air gap between the keyboard tray and the actual chassis. I solved the problem by placing strips of electrical tape onto the left side, and that dramatically improved the sound of the keyboard. Also, the Ctrl key and the Fn key are swapped so whenever you try cutting and pasting, nothing happens. Whose bright idea was it to make this change? BIOS and/or software cannot change this, so Asus can go fuck itself for this design flaw.

The touchpad is fine; I rarely use it. The buttons for the touchpad are a tad harder to press, but that's a good thing in my book.

Performance
Here are all the results gathered from benchmarks. XP still reigns over crappy Vista; and the lack of responsiveness under Vista is still quite noticeable. While gaming at 1280x800, you can usually max out most settings except for HDR, Bloom, and Shadows, but all-in-all it has a pretty decent vid card.

Ports and Features
The main ports of note are the HDMI and the eSATA. Everything else is pretty standard. The HDD is SATA so all upgrades are available to you and are easily accessible.

Speakers and Audio
The speakers are actually pretty good. It can get very loud if you max all of the settings. I usually use headphones and with those you have to turn down all the sound settings or else it's way too loud.

Heat and Noise
The system only gets hot and noisy if you're gaming. Even when playing a ripped DVD, the fan rarely comes on.

Battery Life
The battery life is pretty decent. It can last for around 2.75 hours under normal conditions and if you turn everything down I'm sure I can get around 3.5 hours out of it.

Conclusion
The system was a good deal for the price, but the sad thing is that the keyboard issues have totally turned me off to this system and brand. Asus is still the best in terms of desktop motherboards, but they are a no-go for laptops. I'd rather get a Thinkpad T/X series or a Latitude and be done with it. Better warranty, better design, and a more stable feel. The only thing you'd be missing out on is gaming, but when the price drops low enough, a PS3 will solve that problem. That and most PC games suck these days anyways.

Pros:
  • Price
  • Maxed-out stats
Cons:
  • Keyboard
  • Design
  • Weight
  • Lack of "Pride"