Sunday, October 19, 2008

Max Payne

The history of video games that have been turned into live action movies goes back to 1993 and Super Mario Bros. Of course that was a side scroller with minimal plot. Today I went to see Max Payne. The difference between Super Mario Bros and Max Payne as video games is profound. Super Mario Bros grew purely out of the a desire to build a fun game within the limits of the technology of the time.

Max Payne, on the other hand, was heavily influenced by Hong Kong action movies. Its central feature, bullettime, seemed to be drawn directly from The Matrix. So how did it fare returning to its roots as a movie?

I'd have to say results were mixed. There are some truly awe-inspiring visuals set up throughout the film, but the intensity of the action scenes is blunted due to the PG-13 rating. In the Hong Kong action movies, the old ultraviolence never seemed squeamish, and neither did Max Payne the video game. The movie, however, feels somewhat constrained in that regard, and it shows.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

For the record, here are the movies based on video games that I've seen:

Double Dragon
Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Wing Commander
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Pokémon 4Ever - Celebi, Voice of the Forest
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Resident Evil
Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life
Resident Evil: Apocalypse
Resident Evil: Extinction

None so far have gotten 5 out of 5 stars from me. The closest is Resident Evil, that I'd give 4 stars. I do have hopes for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, on of my favorite video games of all time and one that prides itself on its cinematic sequences. I have great hopes for director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral). Here's hoping!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Burn after Reading

Burn after Reading is delightful fun. The Coen brother's genius is to take a chaotic world, and project it down to only a few characters. In this case we are treated to the Washington D.C. culture, both high and low. The weft and warp of the plot yield a delightfully absurd dark comedy that was enormously entertaining for me.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Georgia Tech

Now I don't normally give a talk a week, but this semester has been crazy busy. This week I visited Georgia Tech and gave a talk in their stochastic seminar. Talks are a bit like snowflakes--too many of them in one place results in a real problem. Just kidding of course, no I mean each talk is unique.

Any time you give a speech, a talk, or any kind of presentation, there's a rhythm in the room. It always helps to have people you know in the audience, and in this case I had several. Prasad Tetali was who had invited me, and has done some great research in analysis of Markov chains. Also there was Henry Matzinger, who got his PhD the same year I did from Cornell OR. It is a small world after all, especially when you're talking about the number of probability doctorates working at major research universities.

Anyway, Henry invited me to dinner that night, and I got to meet his charming wife and catch up on all we've been up to for the last ten years. I also ran into a friend in the CS department while on my way to the student center for breakfast, Eric Vigoda. His work while he was a graduate student under Luby was the first paper I read that got me started in my area, and it was great catching up with him as well.

As a side note, this was my first experience flying Air Tran, and it was very enjoyable. No delays, XM radio in all the seats (which isn't so common in the shuttle flights) and easy online check-in up to 24 hours in advance. Very nice!