Review: War of the Worlds

Finally got to see War of the Worlds today…for the most part, it was worth the wait. First of all, I’ve read the book (many years ago…) and seen the original movie (also awhile back…), so I was looking forward to this re-telling of a good story. The main difference is that this movie is told from a different point of view than the original movie and the H.G. Wells classic. This one is about a dock worker and his family, while the original (1953) involved quite a few diverse characters…and worse special effects. Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning do a good job making the audience feel like they’re going through the frightening times of an alien invasion…and Fanning really makes me glad I don’t have a 10-year-old… 😛

Regardless, the acting and story itself are good, and the special effects are what one would expect from a Spielberg movie. I was kinda disappointed in the amount of action in the movie, however. The obvious comparison between this movie and another would be Independence Day, which is a favorite of mine. ID4 had much more action and more points of view for the story to be seen from, which I have always appreciated. On the other hand, War of the Worlds tells us a very similar story from a different point of view, which is also refreshing.

I also didn’t really like how they brought the aliens into the picture this time around. In the original, the alien ships came to Earth encapsulated in meteors and then started attacking…but this one does it differently and makes less sense… They do at least end the movie the same way as the original and the book, which is the most important, I guess.

Overall, the movie is certainly worth seeing, but I don’t think I’ll end up buying it…seeing it once is probably enough for me, honestly. ID4 is still the favorite in alien invasion movies in my book, but this film definitely brought an interesting story to the table for a new generation.

…fun with turtles…

So yeah, I’m working for Dr. Michael Ariel here at Saint Louis University in the Pharmacology and Physiology department for the next six weeks. This is the first of three lab rotations that I need to carry out for the Ph.D. before I can start my actual research work. Dr. Ariel’s focus is the brain, specifically, the reflex action that causes muscles to move your eyes when you turn your head. As he explains it, when you turn your head, your eyes want to stay focused on a given location, so the muscles cause your eyes to stay on that position while your head moves from side to side. He does this work in turtles, which is somewhat rare in a world where mice and rats tend to dominate research. He uses turtles because, this specific box turtle, can live underwater in the winters of Wisconsin for up to 5 months without having to come up for oxygen (crazy, eh?!). Well, when you remove the brain tissues from the turtle’s body, the tissues will actually stay alive for a few days without being attached to the rest of the body…something that mice/rats/us can’t do…

Currently, I’m helping Dr. Ariel set up his new $70,000 camera device that will record brain stimulation. We will put a voltage-sensitive dye into turtle brain tissue and then shock it with an electric pulse; the neurons are then excited the response travels throughout the neurons along certain pathways. The camera reads the changes in the dye so that we can trace where the signal starts and stops. Neat, eh? 😉

Thus far, the work has been interesting, but it’s difficult getting used to 8 hour workdays again… Now that the camera is mostly set up, I’m sure I’ll be working on other projects by mid- to late-next week… Fascinating times, I tell you…

…and on a side-note, I get to play with my new praise band tonight at Webster Hills UMC…those drums won’t know what hit ’em…

Review: Fantastic Four

First of all, lemme preface this by saying that I owned lots of comic books and comic book collector cards back in elementary school, so I tried to learn lots of stuff about Marvel Comics’ heroes and villains… Spider-Man was my favorite (of course), and the X-Men were popular and cool…but the Fantastic Four had been around for a long time and weren’t quite as popular anymore… Sure, they were a staple of comic book heroes, but they just weren’t that interesting for a kid in the 1990s.

Flash forward to today, 2005. Comic book stories are a hot property for the motion picture business, so Fantastic Four gets picked up for a movie deal. How’d it turn out, you ask? Pretty well, overall. As far as the story goes, I’d classify it between Spider-Man and X-Men: it has the “what the hell happened to us and how do we deal with it?” of Spider-Man, as well as the variety of powers and characters of X-Men, which makes it a bit more interesting. The acting was relatively good, but perhaps could have been a little better…just seemed awkward at parts toward the beginning, I guess, but it got lots better later on… The dialogue was on par with other movies in the genre with few dumb lines (“It’s clobberin’ time” just had to be said, folks…it’s classic!). The special effects were good and the action was fun to watch, although, sadly, the bulk of the action was at the very end of the movie and it would have been nice to see more throughout…but again…when you have four people fighting against one adversary, there’s only so much you can do…

I only had a few real complaints with the movie:

1). The Thing was focussed on a lot compared to the others. This is, of course, because his power was more obvious and had him affected by the outside world more than the others. He steps outside, you see him, you stare at him, he gets affected… It was easiest for the audience to identify with his character more than the others since the others could still live out “normal lives” if they wanted, while the Thing couldn’t… I just would have liked to see more of the others, I think…and certainly more Jessica Alba (heh…)

2). Dr. Doom’s entire character was overhauled for the movie. In the comics, he wasn’t on the ship, wasn’t changed like the others, and couldn’t shoot lightening out of his hands. Now, granted, it made the story easier to deal with and more fun to watch on TV…but still…it was all a bit too convenient, I think. That can be overlooked, however.

So in short, the movie overall was good. Not as good as Spider-Man or X-Men…but it was good… It was good mainly because it was a “super hero” movie that was different enough to be interesting yet similar enough to be entertaining… Frankly, it’s a 2 hour long movie and I didn’t look at my watch once, which is more than I can say about many other movies I’ve seen this year. Does it make sense that “cosmic rays” can “fundamentally change” their DNA to give them super powers? No, not really…but it can still be fun to watch…

…of tropical storms and homeless people…

I’ll try to make this mostly brief…but there is lots to tell… First of all, there are pictures posted in the Photos section now; click on “New Apartment” to see pictures of our mostly-set-up place and “New Orleans” for our trip down south… There are some pictures in “Hermann” of the B&B we stayed at a few weeks ago…

So yeah, we got down there in the middle of Tropical Storm Cindy…and needless to say, there was lots of water… There were over 250,000 people without power on Wednesday morning; thankfully we still had power, yet no cable…grrrrr… Anyway, the next day we walked around the French Quarter and explored a bit…went to a cafe, had some French food, etc… Essentially, we just explored a bit that first day…and it was gorgeous out, surprisingly… On Thursday morning, we went on the Nat’l Park Service historical tour, which was quite cool. We explored some more and then took the afternoon off (nice and humid), then went and got muffalettas (a New Orleans specialty…something like a Schlotsky’s sandwich, I think…but with lots of pickled olives)…which were also incredible… The cool thing about Thursday night was that we went to Preservation Hall and saw some really, really good jazz music…go buy a CD…it’s worth it… On Friday morning, we went on a cemetary tour, lectured by the guy who maintains the historic tombs. These tombs were above ground, so that was kinda cool…this is done for religious reasons, but also because the water table is very, very high in New Orleans. We also chilled Friday afternoon in the A/C and then went out to a nice place for dinner (mmmm…jambalaya…) and then walked around Bourbon Street for a bit…

Anyway, overall, the trip was good…the weather could have been a bit better, but I guess we did decide to go a). in hurricane season and b). when it’s really humid. It was certainly interesting to see people preparing for Hurricane Dennis; some people cared and others didn’t… The one thing I wasn’t expecting was all the homeless people. I mean, I’ve seen them before, but have never seen so many in a concentrated area and certainly had never walked by them before on the street…really kinda sad… Apparently, Louisiana has 1 in 4 people below the poverty line… Regardless, I guess it was a bit more shocking than I expected…

So yeah, check out the pictures…they’re online and all pretty-like… I’ll write more later…

Happy 4th

So yeah, went to the Fair Saint Louis festivities last night…saw Switchfoot live…saw lots and lots of people… The music was excellent and the fireworks were awesome…

…however, there was a little bit of irony… The guy sitting in front of us under the arch and in front of the main stage had a Confederate flag as his cell phone plate. Now, this could be excused, but then he was also wearing a Confederate states seal on his back. Now, I don’t tend to care too much about people wearing clothes that make a statement about…well…something…but seriously… This guy was wearing a shirt with a Confederate seal…at a United States Independence Day celebration…and to top it off, he was videotaping the fireworks… What idiot watchings fireworks on their TV?!

…I guess hypocrisy just annoys me on occasion…what can I say… 😛

Time for a BBQ

Well, Brooke and I went to Hannibal yesterday for Tom Sawyer Days…yes, they have a festival about Tom Sawyer… They had some interesting stuff going on and it was gorgeous outside, so it was a good day overall…just really long… Regardless, we made it back here late last night and we’re checking out a new church this morning…hopefully I can play some drums sometime in the near future, eh? This afternoon, we’re gonna BBQ a bit and go down to Fair St. Louis…Switchfoot is performing tonight and then, of course, fireworks…

On a side-note, Friday went pretty well when I went to SLU to investigate professors to work for. Dr. Ariel does some fascinating stuff with turtles, so I will probably work for him, but I’m still meeting with another guy Tuesday morning. Now, the catch is that I can’t start work for another week (July 11th), which leaves me quite open for this week…therefore, I think Brooke and I are going down to New Orleans as a semi-honeymoon-type deal… We’ll probably leave Tuesday late-morning and come back on Saturday. We found a couple hotels within a block of the French Quarter, so this should be really cool (actually, quite warm, sadly…).

Oh yeah, apparently, some Japanese guy set a new record and memorized and recited 83,431digits of Pi…seriously, some people have way too much time on their hands for their own good…

…and then…there were two…

Yup, I’m married…crazy, eh? Brooke and I have moved into our new place in St. Louis and are almost done putting everything where it needs to go…by the end of tomorrow, we should be mostly done…until the next volley of wedding presents arrives this weekend… That, and I start at SLU for graduate school on Friday. I’m glad that things are starting to settle down a bit, since these last few weeks have been absolutely insane…but a good “insane,” I guess… 😛

Brooke and I went to Hermann, MO for Saturday night and Sunday night to stay at a B&B (…we hope to take a “real” honeymoon in mid-August, of course…suggestions as to where?), which was pretty cool…they upgraded our room to a suite for the two nights at no charge, so we actually had a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen to ourselves; we’ll have pictures up eventually… We also toured the Stone Hill Winery and the Adam Puchta Winery (after sampling their excellent wines, we both had to take a nap…heh…). Overall, great wine, great food and a great time…nice and relaxing!

We just got DSL hooked up today after SBC got their act together… This $15/mo DSL service is great, though…moves a bit quicker than I expected, honestly…hopefully it keeps up… Therefore, we’ll hopefully both be online a bit more often now, although I’ll likely be somewhat busy at school…

Keep in touch, everyone!