Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Terminator Salvation (Action 2009)

Well this was the "eh" movie of the summer. I guess one good thing was that they didn't have some screwy "modern day" crap...you know when movie makers skimp on costs by having a modern setting instead of having something be all future or all past. Old school Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a prime example of this. But yes, this movie was all shot in the future where the machine vs. man war was all well and good. It's hard to think how they could've messed this up, but they did.

T2 still kicked the shit out of this movie in terms of movie fun and special effects. The movie had a good number of CG scenes, mainly utilizing the HKs and other flying planes, but yeah the story itself was weak. It usually had a few good scenes and then a bunch of boring dialogue scenes where nothing much was said...very disappointing. At one point I thought it was a crappy video game cutscene because this one take from a command submarine looked like it came straight out of CC3. Disturbingly horrible...it had Soviet Russians and everything.

So yeah this movie is definitely a renter. You have to see it someday just because it's a Terminator movie but yeah...it was pretty lame. Better than Terminator 3, but only by a slim margin.
Rating - C

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Drama 2008)

Well I for one thought this movie was absolutely marvelous. It's one of those super slow dramas that takes a long time to sink in. Think The Green Mile, but with a way better story, theme, and characters.

The story was very interesting considering that it has never been done before. Watching a person born into an old body and them going through life in reverse is a pretty peculiar thing. This precedence allowed the plot to venture towards an area of personal maturity and growth that is virtually unknown. Brad Pitt's relationship with Cate Blanchett's character was intriguing, believable, and tragic.

Key moments in this film were memorizing, not because anything over the top was being shown, but the fact that the writer was able to articulate the emotions that the main characters would feel during certain milestones in their lives. To me everything was very believable and on par with the expectations of human emotion.
Rating - A+

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Throwback

It was brought to my attention that some stores have received the release of a new type of Pepsi and Mountain Dew. It's called 'Throwback' and it contains real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. My 1.5 week experiment with these drinks has verified that it indeed is real sugar and has no adverse effects on Mr. Tummy. It is a tad more expensive than a regular Diet soda though, but not by a lot: $.34 vs $.26. It's worth it if you regularly shop at Target.

Star Trek (Sci-Fi Action 2009)

I'm usually not one who enjoys going against the grain, but for this movie, I think I'll have to. There was indeed an inaccurate hype associated with this film. I was expecting greatness but what I got was an odd story, overly bright lighting, and unexplained plot holes happening everywhere. As one wise man said, "This movie was made for the non-Trekkies of this newfangled generation"; and I think that's true.

The first scene of the movie was terrific...action, music integration, and special effects were all spot-on. This gave me very high hopes, but soon afterwards you got introduced to all of the main characters, and overacting cocky ones at that. Everything just seemed so exaggerated like it was a parody, but then you realize that this was the actual movie.

After a while I just gave up trying to understand things and just watched to see what kinds of special effects would make-up for it. Besides 2 very distinct scenes, the movie really didn't have anything over the top. Yes the sound was good and occasionally the music was too, but again, most of the characters were beyond exaggerated and this just helped ruin it. To most Star Trek fans out there, I think the biggest flaw was the plot. Jumping back in time-type of plots never seem to work well and it completely failed with this one. It didn't even try to make sense. If I were more animated you would've seen me just throw my hands up in the air and let them fall many times over.
Rating - B

Taken (Action 2008)

LOL well I liked this action flick. I think it's the first time I've seen Liam Neeson doing anything badassish, but it was a damn good first.

The fight scenes were reminiscent of The Bourne Identity while the action and story were pretty Bondish. The film was worth it for one single scene that happened at a dining-room table. I don't know why that scene was so raw, but damn did it put a big smile on my face.
Rating - B

Bride Wars (Romantic Comedy 2009)

Well this romantic comedy was thoroughly unimpressive. Are people just running out of ideas or what?

Yeah it's about two best friends who so happen to schedule their weddings on the same day, thus creating a problem because that month is somehow special to both of them. The story then turns into a fake catfight where the two girls are supposed to be doing prank-like things to each other, but I didn't find any of it humorous or entertaining. The story ends with a very crappy revelation and then poof, it's over.

These are the types of movies that just shouldn't exist. They essentially copy a very established equation of what a romantic comedy is supposed to be like and see if it can make some money. Hopefully it doesn't.
Rating - D

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Defiance (Drama 2008)

Its funny how every year or so there comes out a new Jewish flick displaying the suffering endured during WWII. Most of these films are good, but this one was pretty lame.

I thought it was going to be an action drama, but there wasn't a lot of action in it...just a longish movie with a ton of boring scenes in the middle. I don't know if Daniel Craig can really speak whatever Slovak language he was using in this film, but he and Liev Schreiber did great jobs...very believable from that point of view. But unfortunately it was not enough to make up for the lack of real substance with the plot.
Rating - C

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Valkyrie (War Drama 2008)

This film didn't get that much press, but I sure knew about it way before hand. Yeah I know, Cruise is still a Scientologist nutter, but he's also still a half-decent actor.

As most may know this film is about a group of peeps who tried to kill Hitler during the declining years of the war. Obviously they failed, but this movie put a pretty interesting face on the attempt. Yeah Bill Nighy played a German general in the film and in almost every scene with him in it, I was expecting his vampire teeth to protrude out. Goes to show what a good match we was with the part of Viktor.

I enjoyed this movie very much...but then again I do usually enjoy all types of war flicks. I thought everything from the story, costumes, dialogue, and music were spot on. The choice of a few character actors were also very well placed during key sequences. Overall it had a nice, suspenseful feel throughout most of the film and straight-on through the end.
Rating - A

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Meet Number Two

So my sister just gave birth to her 2nd chica. This one pretty much looks the same as the first. It'll be interesting to see how their personalities differ as they grow up. As I like to say, "Babies are more cute when they're not yours :-)". I couldn't imagine the added responsibility and time commitment... When is a brotha supposed to find time to watch Star Trek?

The Wrestler (Drama 2008)

I don't get why peeps online said this movie was good because it was only average, if that.

The story follows around this old-ass wrestler who has nothing other than his "career". When his body gives out after a random match, he tries to be a normal person with a normal job but that doesn't work because he lacks self-control. He also cannot reconnect with his estranged daughter for that exact same reason.

The film was all about this loser who continues being a loser...I found it very difficult to feel any sympathy at all towards his plight because he was a walking conglomeration of bad decisions. If you're poor you shouldn't really be spending any money on beer or lap dances, right?
Rating - C

Sunday, May 03, 2009

2006 Saab 9-5

At long last, after close to 2 months of ownership, I think I've gathered enough data to give a thorough review of Rachel V.

After having to deal with the craptacular acceleration of Miss Rachel IV, I was adamant that my next car would be a lot more peppy. I've been eyeing Saabs ever since my brief run-in with my 9-2x. Even though most of that car was still a Subaru, the frontal styling was something magnificent. The lux items such as having heated leather seats and Xenon lights always sat in the back of my mind as a must-have.

Fast forward to a few months ago when my parents' old Legacy died and they needed a replacement. I took this opportunity to start car shopping again. The Saab 9-3 was the first car of its class to really catch my eye. The exterior was amazing as well as the 2008 restyling. Unfortunately the interior of the pre-2007 model was horrible and very cluttered around the HVAC system. I was banking on getting an 07+ 9-3 for quite a while, but of course my cheap-ass price point could not be reached by any regular dealer anywhere. I then started researching the 9-5s. In 2006 there was an exterior restyle that was pretty modern and tasteful. Because it was one year less than the 9-3 model I was looking at, it meant that the cheap price point could be met. During my research I discovered that Saabs are the fastest depreciating luxury-line of automobiles while Mitsubishis are the quickest among the Japanese brands. I would try to leverage this fact to my benefit.

I ended up finding my car on Ebay of all places. Funny how I spend so much time there, that I would actually end up buying a car and having it shipped, just like any other purchase. Long-story short, the previous owner of the car didn't really take care of it much. When I got it there were coffee explosions everywhere and there was a ton of cleaning involved. Like seriously how can you get coffee stains up on the roof of the car? I purchased it from a "wholesale dealer" who, as my friend Peter describes, is something close to the lowest form of life capable of cell mitosis; I would have to agree. The dealer seemed to be pretty slimy and a bit shady, but 14.9k for a fully-loaded lux automobile is hard to pass up, so I bit. I'm not 100% sure if the previous owner caused many-a problems or the fact that the car switched hands from so many wholesalers, but when it reached me there were a buttload of problems that I needed to take in to get fixed. Good thing was that the car was still under warranty so most of the issues were covered. Yeah I'll get into the warranty thing later...but let's get to the review.

Turbo
Lets just start with the reason a new car was even on my mind. My Subaru Impreza was slow as fuck. I'm blaming that on the fact that it had no high-reving bonuses (VTEC, VTTI) and it was only a 4-speed automatic. On paper I had thought that the 170HP Impreza would be able to beat out my old 140HP Civic....I was wrong. The Civic had 3 advantages over the Impreza: It was lighter in weight, front-wheel drive-only, and it had a VTEC engine. My main lesson learned from this downgrade was that paper means nothing...you have to actually test drive a car thoroughly and on the freeway to see if it can really keep up with your expectations.

The Turbo on this Saab is wonderful. There is this slight lag where the turbo starts spooling up, but then the engine releases this huge wave of acceleration...it's nutty. From what I noticed, the car feels like it uses the Turbo as a capacitor of speed, and as it uses it up, your car goes faster. It does this in lieu of just downshifting your car to save on gas....smart design. But yeah needless to say the 9-5 is hella fast and thoroughly meets my expectations.

'S' Button
The car also has this neat little "S" Sport button. I remember back in the Civic DX days when I would use the A/C button as my boost because the engine was so underpowered and you needed to shut off the A/C in order to get any HP out of it. In this car that button does exactly what it's supposed to do. When it's depressed, it tells your engine to do anything it can to make your car accelerate as fast as it can. It is perfect for freeway merging or when you are trying to beat a yellow. The greatest part is that you can turn it on and off with one convenient push. Every car should have this feature.

Manual Control
Most modern cars have some sort of manual-shifting feature. For the Saab you put the car into 'M' mode which allows you to use the paddle shifters to shift the car. I have a similar feature on the Impreza, and sad to say, the Impreza's manual-shifter is much better than the Saab's. The Saab has this annoying delay that is very similar in length to the Impreza's horrible downshifting abilities. You seriously have to wait 1-1.5 whole seconds until the car shifts, while as the Impreza is pretty immediate even though it's a pointless endeavor. So because of this delay, using the paddle-shifters is not fun at all so I never use it.

Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control System
This is one feature that sounds good on paper, but in real life it's more annoying than helpful...at least in this car. I have discovered that I really enjoy having direct control over the temperature in my car. The Subaru was actually really good with this in terms of both heating and A/C cooling. The Saab is a presumptuous fuck when it comes to this. Whenever I turn off my car, it will not remember shit in terms of the "last settings"...it will always assume that you want it in auto-mode and will try to heat or cool your car accordingly. What does this mean? It means that the second you start up your car the fan starts blasting at max. It's annoying as shit. To add insult to injury the system also has an "A/C Off" button. Please read that sentence again...an A/C-OFF button. And I bet you can guess what the car does by default; yup, by default the A/C is always turned on. What the fucking hell is this. I'm already getting piss poor gas mileage...I really don't want to be required to "remember" to turn off the A/C each time I get into the car. Additionally, having a dual-zone is a plain stupid idea. A car's space is so damn small that it makes no difference what you set the temperature at because one side's setting will have an effect on the other. Do they really think that one side of the car can be sitting at 60 degrees while the other side is at 80? How inefficient. So to sum this up, whenever I start up my car I have to:
  1. Turn the knob to off
  2. Turn the driver's side temperature gauge to what I want
  3. Turn the passenger's side gauge to the same same temperature
  4. Push the auto button
  5. Turn off the A/C
  6. Turn on/off previously configured heated seats and/or ventilated seats
Yeah someone really deserves the award for the stupidest HVAC design ever.

Steering Wheel
The leather steering wheel itself is fantastic. It has these nubs where you can place your thumbs and for some reason it makes a world of difference as to the feel of the wheel. Go nubs!

Steering Wheel Controls
The controls are supposed to be intuitive but they just aren't. Volume control and selection should always be on the same side. You shouldn't have to use two hands to control the radio, but in this car you do. I think the Civic EX had the best setup with this: one side had all of the cruise control buttons and the other side had all of the audio control buttons; simple and to the point.

Rain-Sensing Wipers
I think this is a useless feature for all cars. First off, the right stick has to be placed into the sensing position. If you already had to go through that much trouble...what's a few more calories to control it yourself? On all 6 occasions when it was raining and/or snowing, I found the intelligence of the system to be lacking. It couldn't detect correctly the speed that was needed to get rain off of the windshield, so almost always it went too slow. After a few seconds of this crap, I usually got too frustrated and went and manually set it myself.

Side Sticks
The side sticks are way too soft. They have so much give/slack that you have to use up extra energy each time you want the stick to move. The right-side stick controls the intermittent wipers, but I have yet to discover which setting is "intermittent". From what I can tell there are only 5 settings: auto-sensing, off, once/mist, fast, hella fast. On the Impreza there are 5 that work perfectly: once/mist, off, intermittent, fast, hella fast. Again...bad design and bad materials.

Stereo
This is where the car heavily dropped the ball. When you burn an MP3 CD, set it to randomize songs, it will jump to one random song. If you push the selection button to jump to another song, it will not go to the next random song, but instead it will go to the next song in the order that the CD was burned. So if you are on track 4 and push next, you'll end up on track 5, not the next random track. What the hell is this? What is the fucking point of having a randomize button if it doesn't even work in this manner? I mean seriously how hard is it to program that in? Hell...there is already a built-in function in pretty much every programming language out there...it would've been 1 line of code for God sakes. I think this is GM's fault because it is their standard stereo. So yeah there is no way for a person to be 100% completely happy when they do not have control over their radio...it just can't happen. With the Civic, I had MP3s skipping on me if I didn't remember to burn the CD at 1x speed. The Impreza's MP3 randomize function worked perfectly but the steering wheel control was slightly broken, and this 9-5 is the worst of the group...the absolute worst. The only positive thing is that the speakers rock. The quality of sound that comes out of the speakers are the best of any car I've owned...sad again how they dropped the ball with the randomizing.

Rear Parking Assist
This is a feature that merely spoils you. It beeps as you get closer to an object behind you. Does it work? Yes. Is it necessary? Not for me, but I'm sure for those who have to parallel park a lot, it would be very beneficial.

Garage Door Opener
This is an awesome feature. It's like having a universal remote except that it's for garage doors. No need to carry around the actual remote...just use its one-touch button. And if I had 3 houses, I could program all of their garages into it. Very neat.

Compass
This feature usually comes with mirrors that have a garage door opener. It is a 100% useless novelty unless I was driving in the Bermuda Triangle.

Sunroof
I've actually grown to like this feature. I rarely have the whole thing down, but it's nice to open it up a tad so that heat can quickly escape from the top. The Civic EX still had the best sunroof in terms of control though. In the Saab, it's harder to to just open it up a tad because it reaches a point where it will just auto-open. It is the reverse for closing it; you have to hold the damn thing down forever until it fully closes because it doesn't auto-detect what you're trying to do. On the Civic you had many settings: fully close, fully open, open a tad, close a tad, and push up. Perfect controls...too bad it isn't on this car.

Side Mirrors
The passenger-side mirror has a 70/30 split where the 30 is a wide angle. This feature rocks...you can totally position the mirror so that you're able see your car and your blind spot at the same time. Great job here.

Auto-Dimming Rear View & Side Mirrors
Ever since I got lasiks, my eyes are not what they used to be, especially at night. The auto-dimming feature turns all of the rear headlights green. I guess this is supposed to cut down on the glare, but to me it just makes the lights seem "fake"...so much so that I stop believing that the lights behind me are real cars. Needless to say, I have turned this feature off...maybe it's all just in my head :-)

Xenon Headlights
The Xenons are beautiful. With only these lights on, it gives a greater width of visibility and a clearer view vs. the Impreza with the fogs on. It would be hard to go back to normal lights after this. One bad thing is that the lights do this odd flickering when I shut off the car. It's very questionable. When I took the car in for the whole slew of initial repairs, I had mentioned that one of the Xenon Console Error Lights had appeared on the dash, but the dealership pretty much ignored me. I still have a bad feeling about the lights though; they do seem to flicker a lot even when the car is stationary.

Day-Time-Running Lights
Saab dropped the ball with this also. From the photo below you have 3 light settings, but they are all the same: lights are on all the time. To make matters worse, the daytime-running lights ARE the Xenon lights, so again it's just like having your primary lights on all the time. This sucks ass because why then do you have a knob that says it can do 3 things, but really it can only do one? The instruction manual said that you could remove a fuse and it would change the left-most setting to be off; I have done just that, but it's still a fucked up design. Both the Civic and Subaru had a pair of lights for daytime-running and another paid for headlights. So yeah...you get to totally use up all the Xenons during the day and night which means that they will probably need to be replaced sooner..and rumor has it that the lights are an expensive part to replace. Terrific.

Sport-Tuned Chassis
This is definitely a must for any driving enthusiast. The car has a much stiffer ride, but it feels a lot more stable and that you have more control over the car. You certainly don't lean as much when you go into a spaghetti bowl, nor when you have to make sudden evasive turns. It sucks that with most cars, you have to upgrade to a larger, more gas-guzzling engine in order to get the sport suspension.

Center Console
I guess having everything in the center is a Saab-unique design. I like the key-placement, but having the door lock and the power windows control in the center is not ergonomically sound. The power window buttons are way too close to the arm rest so you actually have to move your whole arm back in order to lower the rear windows. Also, the fact that the rear-seat window buttons are not facing the same direction as the front-seat ones is very annoying because you can't use your index finger to control all of them...you need to use your thumb. Who thought of this? And lastly there is the door-locking button. I can't tell you how many times I needed to get into the back seat from the outside and I was forced to dive all the way into the car to unlock the rear doors. This is supposed to be on the driver-side door...changing this was a dumb move.

Heated, Ventilated, Sport leather Seats
One of the main purposes of getting this car rather than others was that it had to have heated seats. Ever since my run-in with the 9-2x, I've always wanted my ass artificially warmed up in the morning. The seats on the 9-5 could be hotter, but they still do the job. An unexpected feature was the ventilated seats. This is an odd mechanical function of having a fan suck the air from your body through the seat to the floor. Yeah...I know what you're thinking and the answer is, "I don't know where the air goes when you rip ass." Does it go to the back-seat passengers? Who knows lol. Since it has gotten warm during the afternoons here, I've been trying it out lately and it's O.K., but I don't think I'd pay extra for it. And lastly, the seats are the "sport" type. The only difference I can feel is that the sides are harder and try to hug you into the seat and the material is more firm. This feature is definitely worth it when you're cornering and going around spaghetti bowls.

MPG
Yeah I'm sorry but the fuel mileage is the second worst attribute of the car, with only the MP3 player beating it out for the lowest spot. The car is posted as being (17/27)...something that I really wasn't paying attention to when I was shopping, but I think I should've paid more attention. With my mix of street and freeway driving, I get an average of 21mpg which is on the lower, suckier scale. I mean when an all-wheel-drive Impreza is getting 27mpg mixed...you would think that a front-wheel drive Saab would be a tad bit better than 21, but I guess the 260HP engine, coupled with its 3470lb weight really makes that much of a difference.

The 21mpg was calculated when I was using the cheap gas (87 octane gas). It actually wants premium (91 octane). When I tested the car out with premium gas, I was surprised to find that the mpg went up a few points to 23.8mpg. Calculated out with regular gas at $2.03/gallon vs. $2.26/gallon for premium over the course of 6000 miles, the difference is only $10. That's a little less than 2 In-N-Out trips. So even though you do save money by using the cheaper gas, the car is much smoother and quicker to accelerate when you use its recommended premium gas.

Overall
This is a car where you can actually feel that many different teams worked on its design and production. The engine and chassis designers were very brilliant people, but the teams responsible for the interior electronics and material selection were friggin' idiots.

In the end I think this car and I will have a very extreme love-hate relationship. Some parts of it are awesome while some other parts of it are unacceptably bad. It's still very hard to get exactly what you want in a car unless you customize a Mini Cooper, but that would also mean that you would have to pay a good chunk of change for those customization rights. I thoroughly enjoy myself each time I drive this car. It's just sad how a few simple fixes could've made a whole world of difference in terms of customer satisfaction.

Extra...
While I was waiting for my premium-fuel experiment to complete, I found out that the only Saab dealership in Reno was dumping the franchise and ending their relationship with Saab Corporate. This pretty much means that I'll have to drive to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or Sacramento in order to get any free warranty service done. And since last time they had to nabb my car for days on end, I doubt this will be a viable option. On top of that, most independent peeps in this town only work on Japanese or German cars...no Sweedish love here. I'm not sure what I'm going to do...but I do hate being in this position. My current options are to get jacked later for an unrepairable/unsupported car or trade it in quickly before it depreciates more. Being banished to sit behind the wheel of a non-turbo car would suck ass though.

Pros
  • Lux everywhere
  • Price
  • Turbo
  • Low Insurance
Cons
  • Stereo
  • HVAC Control
  • MPG
  • DRLs
  • Service/Support!!