Category Archives: movies

Mom’s Night Out (Movie Review, PG)

There are things I review on my blog that I think everyone will love and then there are things I post here that I think some people will love…this one is for the some people, not everybody. (It has a 5.4/10 on IMDb but only 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Mom's Night Our

I love slapstick comedy (think Home Alone, Baby’s Day Out, etc.) but there is very little of it being produced these days (if you are aware of some good ones I should be watching – let me know!). Mom’s Night Out falls into this category. I laughed so hard I almost cried. Sheila, my mom, and two of my sisters (Faith and Mary) were all watching it with me, I don’t think any of them enjoyed it quite as much as I did…though they may have enjoyed it more because of my near-tears laughing antics.

Mom’s Night Out is a Christian movie in the sense that it was made by Christians, but it is not a Christian movie in the sense of proselytizing. This film is funny and heart-warming and its take-away is a bit over-the-top, but hey, don’t most comedies have one of these at the end anyways?

Okay, now on to some geeky stuff I like to share and probably nobody reads… 🙂

Actors

I always like to see who they were able to line up for a movie and what they were in before…this film has some fairly well-known talent including Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and David Hunt.

There are also several significant actors from the Christian film industry – which are likely known by those who watch these films and not by the larger world. These include: Andrea Logan White, Alex Kendrick, Jason Burkey, and Kevin Downes.

Love & Mercy (Movie Review, 2015)

Love & Mercy (PG-13), the story of Brian Wilson, singer/songwriter of The Beach Boys fame, is an amazing movie. Much more amazing than I could have anticipated. My experience with The Beach Boys was limited to Surfin’ U.S.A. and Good Vibrations – neither of which I was particularly fond of. How interesting could a band be that produced that sort of pop songs? As it turns out, quite interesting.

Love and Mercy Photo

Brian Wilson is portrayed as a musical genius and watching the film drives a deeper appreciation for The Beach Boys’ music. Wilson is also a deeply broken individual who struggles desperately to please his demanding and self-consumed father. Wilson spirals downwards into drugs and mental illness and then stuff happens. I don’t want to give it away, but the story is gripping. Will everything turn out okay? Will Wilson regain his sanity? His life? Go see!

I’m not the only one who thought it was a good movie. Rotten Tomatoes has it pegged at an impressive 89% fresh while the IMDb has a rating of 7.9/10. For those who don’t surf these sites on a frequent basis, let me just note that these are very impressive scores.

Paul Dano does an amazing job of portraying a young Brian Wilson while John Cusack does a solid job as a middle-aged Wilson. A favorite actor of mine, Paul Giamatti, does a turn as Wilson’s psychiatrist. But honestly, the other real star of the show is Elizabeth Banks who plays an older Wilson’s love interest.

So what are you waiting for? Go see it already!

The Song Movie Review (PG-13)

Love and Hate Relationship

On occasion I receive screener copies of films (these days they tend to be digital rather than physical) and usually these are Christian films. I have a love/hate relationship with the Christian movie industry. I want to see good Christian films but the vast majority are crap so when I received the screener for The Song I didn’t set my expectations high – I was pleasantly surprised.

The Story

The Song Movie lead actorsThe Song tells the story of Jeb King (Alan Powell), a singer/songwriter who marries Rose (Ali Faulkner), the woman of his dreams, but almost loses her as well as his young son in the pursuit of fame, fortune, and fun – the last primarily in the person of a talented and free spirited musician – Shelby Bale (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas) who joins his tour as the opening act.

The Bad

The first few minutes of the film are underwhelming and confusing. Telling the story of Jeb’s father Dave – a famous singer/songwriter in his own right – it lacks any narration and covers a large span of time – I found it downright confusing.

The acting throughout the film is solid and sometimes ventures into greatness with occasional lapses into mediocrity.

The Good

The film claims to be inspired by the Song of Solomon – it might be more accurate to say that it is based off of the life and writings of King Solomon (traditionally Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and some of the Psalms). This could be a recipe for disaster – far too many Christian films skimp on the story and are heavy-handed with the sermonizing – but not The Song.

Instead the song is a genuinely innovative take on King Solomon. It has many subtle references to the story of Solomon (one of the less subtle being that Jeb’s father is David and they both share the last name King) and maintains the overarching themes of Solomon’s life and teachings but with a freedom that allows the story to stand on its own.

There are also a number of times in which Jeb voices over the film with readings from Solomon’s teachings which specifically apply to and illuminate the relevant scene – one of the more powerful being the reading of Solomon’s warning against the adulterous woman.

Ohh, and did I mention the music is catchy? I’m not a musician, but to my untrained ear several of the songs where quite enjoyable.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a fun and thought provoking film, The Song is worth trying. It does contain mature themes (alcohol, drugs, violence) so I wouldn’t recommend it for young children (besides the intricacy of the story and allusions would go over their heads and they’d lose interest) but for teen and adult audiences it should be an enjoyable option.

If you do watch the film I’d like to know what you think of it. Did you like it? What were your favorite allusions to Solomon’s life and writings? What would you have done differently?

Ohh, and P.S., its currently available at your local Redbox…at least it is at mine!

They Like It Too

I’m not alone in my appreciation of the film. While Rotten Tomatoes find the critic rating at only 29% the audience rating indicates 91% enjoyed the film. The IMDb gives it a Metascore of 42/100 while the audience gave it a 5.6/10 and it received a 6 from Metacritic. These numbers aren’t amazing – but they aren’t horrible either.

By comparison, the recent Left Behind movie has a 2% rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 47% audience rating. On IMDb Left Behind has a 3.1/10 from the audience, a Metascore of 12/100 and Metacritic gives it a score of 25!

Escape Plan (Movie Review, R)

I had a coupon for a free rental from Redbox. I’d been wanting to see Escape Plan and figured I’d pick it up…But I didn’t use my coupon. It would have taken ten minutes last night and ten minutes today to pick up and drop off the DVD. Instead I booted up HitBliss and watched slightly over 10 minutes of commercials – then I rented the movie using my credits from watching the commercials. Shorter time, no late fees, no need to leave the house.

The poster for the movie, Escape Plan.
The poster for the movie, Escape Plan.

The story is that Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is a private contractor who is hired to test prison security systems. Some people don’t like Breslin so much and arrange for him to be put into an escape-proof prison. Here he meets Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character – a rough “thieve from the rich, give to the poor” criminal and they make an awkward alliance to escape the prison.

Escape Plane is a fairly straightforward action flick with a few small twists and turns at various junctures. I’d complain that the storyline is unbelievable – the good guys dodge way too many bullets but then I remembered the biography of Chesty Puller I’d read when I was younger – a story which seems improbable, implausible – and yet is historical – a man who moved through wars as if invincible. I’d complain that the escape plans are too complicated, too ridiculous, that the chances of everything coming together are too mathematically improbable but then I remembered the book I read about about the Nazi prison camp for Allied officers called Colditz and the many ingenious and implausible escapes (and attempts) that took place there.

An action film telling a prison escape must take some liberties with how the individuals escape – an actual escape takes place over an extended period of time (as it does in the film) and requires numerous components to all fall into place through agonizingly painful and detailed work. Remember when watching the film that the film director decided not to force us to watch in agonizing detail how various components were scavenged or how certain items were built or compromised.

But even if the movie was implausible – I still wanted to see it. Why? Because it has two actors who’ve been in a lot of corny and a few good movies – who are feeling their age and yet still put on an enjoyable show (yes, I’m talking about Schwarzenegger and Stallone). Honestly, Schwarzenegger alone will usually attract my attention. I get a kick out of watching the Governor of California play a gun toting good guy.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, by a really robust cast – not necessarily your A-liners – but just some actors I really, really enjoy…you know, mainly the ones you can’t remember their names. There was Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ), the sadistic warden. Amy Ryan (The Office) plays a supporting role to Breslin in his contracting business. Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) is a morally conflicted prison doctor serving in the prison. Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) plays Breslin’s business partner. Vinnie Jones plays his usual tough bad guy role…ohh, and don’t forget 50 Cent. I don’t listen to his music – is it permissible for me to like him as an actor?

There is plenty of hand-to-hand combat, lots of gunfire, some explosions, no sex, but a whole boatload of profanity and some crude humor. Watching this film with Clearplay would clean things up significantly.

The film clocks in at almost two hours – this is long for an action film – and you feel it with this one. Yet, the film is still enjoyable – and includes some laugh-out-loud humor primarily provided by Stallone and Schwarzenegger. If you are looking for some brainless fun – Escape Plan isn’t a bad bet.

For those who want more information on the objectionable content, I recommend checking out Common Sense Media’s review here.

Ohh, and did I mention it raises some interesting ethical questions, as well? The film presents the question, “How far are we willing to go to keep those who are dangerous away from the rest of us?” It then proposes that doing so requires us to effectively sweep up with the bad guys some innocents…and is this an acceptable cost? The film portrays our heroes taking questionable actions to gain their freedom (including acting provocatively to provoke race riots within the prison) and at the end of the film the question of whether there is cruel and unusual punishment that should be avoided even for the abominably wicked is raised…mind you, the film is no intellectual piece of art – but it does offer several entry points for thought provoking discussion.

Margin Call (R): Movie Review.

[Okay, this is really only like 25% movie review, 75% my hypothesizing about systemic ills that cause significantly societal dysfunction]

Margin Call is a 2011 film with an a great ensemble cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Aasif Mandvi amongst others. It provides an “inside look” at a Wall Street finances firm during the 2008 financial crisis – albeit a fictional one.

Margin Call - a movie about the 2008 financial crisis.
Margin Call – a movie about the 2008 financial crisis.

The film contains no violence or nudity[1], it does, however, include a boatload of profanity – including religious…and I mean pervasive profanity.

If you are looking for a film that helps explain what happened in 2008 and perhaps one that will rile you up a bit, this is a good film to select – though it is too nuanced to be the sort of rage flick that allows us to direct all our hatred towards abominably evil characters – for that you’ll have to look to  Uwe Boll’s controversial and simplistic film Assault on Wall Street (2013, R).

Margin Call does demonstrate the greed and dishonesty which allowed the collapse to occur. It also highlights the way in which extremely intelligent individuals have been leaving jobs which are highly productive for society (e.g. engineering space craft and bridges) to these financial trading careers which have questionable value for society. It manages to enrage us with the “golden parachutes” many of the “higher-ups” secure for themselves even as they cut their employees off at the knees and leave the common man holding the bag and towards the end John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) characters highlights that the 2008 crash is not a one-time occurrence, but something which has been occurring with great regularity throughout history – and yet has not been stopped and is not being stopped now.

At the same time, it calls us, the common people, to account for our complicity in what occurred. In a powerful scene where Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) and Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) are driving together, Seth notes how devastating the crash will be for “real people” – to which Will explains why Seth should not feel sympathy for the “real people” who essentially pay the financial traders to abstract their dirty work – so they can feel better about themselves. Here is the relevant dialogue (you’ll see what I mean about pervasive profanity):

Seth: “—-, this is going to really affect people.”

Will: “Yeah, it’s gonna affect people like me.”

Seth: “No, Will, real people.”

Will: “—–, Seth. Listen, if you really want to do this with your life, you have to believe you are necessary, and you are. People want to live like this–in their cars and big ——- houses they can’t even pay for, then you’re necessary. The only reason that they all get to continue living like kings is because we’ve got out fingers on the scales in their favor.”

“I take my hand off, then the whole world gets really ——- fair really ——- quickly and nobody actually wants that. They say they do, but they don’t. They want what we have to give them, but they also want to, you know, play innocent and pretend they have no idea where it came from.”

“Well, that’s more hypocrisy than I’m willing to swallow. So —- ’em. —- normal people.”

“You know the funny thing is, tomorrow if all of this goes —- up? They’re going to crucify us for being too reckless. But if we’re wrong, and everything gets back on track, well then, the same people are going to laugh till they piss their pants ‘case we’re gonna look like the biggest ——- God ever let through the door.”

In other words, we desire a certain standard of living, so we engage in questionable practices in order to sustain that level of living – but we remove ourselves from conscious involvement in this unethical behavior by “handing off” the dirty work to the financial traders. We praise them when they do well for us and are horrified when they fail us and/or act unethically.

I have a developing hypothesis about evil. In my experience I find fewer evil people than I expect and more systems which propagate evil. I do not mean to excuse the financial traders for their unethical actions, but only note that removing the unethical (or evil) individuals will not rectify the problem – why? Because the system still exists and the system points incalculable pressure upon the individual to act unethically – thus creating more unethical individuals, which will, naturally, result in more unethical behavior.

I need to read up more on economics and specifically on the stock market – but I tentatively hypothesize that we’d need a fundamental change in the way the stock market operates in order to rectify (at least significantly) this system. This could perhaps be achieved by making investments in stocks somehow (I don’t know how) primarily about deriving profits from profit sharing dividends, rather than the current scenario in which much of what is bought/sold is done so under the philosophy of buy low, sell high – which creates an unsustainable pressure upon companies to continually increase profits (or risk the rage of the stockholder).

The ironic thing is, if I’m right, we are cutting each other off at the knees. Company X lays off 5,000 employees to increase its profits so stockholders don’t sell…the employees are righteously angry. Who are those stockholders? Well, many of them are from Company Y which just cut 5,000 employees to keep their profits increasing (and who are their stockholders? Why people from Company X!). Obviously this is a vast oversimplification…but it seems to me we are demanding increased profits from those we invest in yet at the same time demanding that the companies act in more generous, considerate ways – and in so doing we ask the impossible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts? As I said, I’m no expert on economics or the stock market.

  1. [1]Though two of the characters are briefly at a strip joint, the film (amazingly) chooses not to throw in nudity to attract additional viewers

Movie Review: Cinco de May La Batalla (R).

My ADD makes it hard for me to watch longer, slower epics – but when I’m riding my stationary bike at the same time – I can do it. Yesterday I watched Cinco De Mayo La Batalla (Cinco De Mayo: The Battle) (it is currently available via Netflix). Didn’t know there was a historical battle behind the Cinco De Mayo holiday? Me either.

Cover of Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla film (2013, R).
Cover of Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla film (2013, R).

It tells the story of The Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862 when disciplined French forces (yup!) attacked a rabble of Mexican soldiers and civilian volunteers. Amazingly, the Mexicans came out victorious, and the battle was an encouragement to the Mexican people regarding their ability to withstand a seemingly superior enemy (in arms, experience, and financial backing).

The film itself is an interesting – perhaps strange – collage. Early on it introduces two characters who seem comedic in nature (which is strange for a historical element), but as the tale progresses they lose their comedic elements. A romance between one of these characters and a third character adds another strange twist as we swap back and forth between scenes featuring military commanders strategizing and diplomats negotiating to these two lovebirds interacting.

From a humorous perspective, my favorite part is the captioning. It is evident that the individual who translated the Spanish into English (almost the entire film is in Spanish, there is a very small spattering of English and French) was not a native English speaker – creating a number of awkward constructions.

This said, it might sound like the film is a no-go. And the film has yet more against it – the shaky camera work (I think done in large part to hide the fact that while it is supposed to be pouring during portions of the battle, the sky is in fact clear and blue), cuts from and to scenes that seem nonsensical and too short to carry any meaning, and so on…but, actually, I really liked the film.

I’m always a sucker for an underdog story – but I think it is the extended time spent on the actual battle that won me over. Unlike many modern movies which insist on insane camera work that makes me feel sick to give us a “hey, you are actually here” feel – this film uses a more traditional style reminiscent of 13 Days to Glory and John Wayne’s The Alamo.

The film clearly portrays the absolute insanity of Napoleonic tactics at this juncture in history. At points I could barely stand to watch as lines of men walked towards each other, stood still, and then took turns firing into each others ranks, playing a form of roulette – lets see whose lines disappear first.

The film is also quite violent. Just about every manner in which film technicians have developed to demonstrate the bloody horrors of wars is represented here. Many deaths are fairly bloodless (ala John Wayne) but others are horribly graphic. No, it isn’t that I like the gore…I do think that bloodless epics that glorify war are more detrimental to viewers than ones that portray war with its horrors.

What really struck me – in a way few other movies have conveyed – is the hopeless plight of the common man in these situations. Napoleon III decides from across the oceans to collect on a debt owed France by Mexico…and this battle is only the beginning of many in which hundreds and thousands will die – the common man – while lofty politicians move men around like so many chess pieces.

I’m not a pacifist. I understand the need for the use of force, even deadly force, in the maintenance of peace – but the film did make me think deeply about the wars we have been, are, and will be involved with…It struck me that perhaps for me, there will be a more active role to play in activism in the future – not to dissuade from conflict when necessary – but to ensure that the causes of conflict are actually those who force war, and not simply pompous men’s blustering or conniving thieves contriving sales.

HitBliss – Supplement Netflix and Hulu for Free

A long, long time ago (okay, I really don’t remember how long ago – but in internet time, it has been a long time) I signed up for a program called HitBliss. It allowed me to watch a few videos and earn cash. I think I could cash out back in the old days, I’m not sure if that is still possible…but they do still let you earn money which you can then use to purchase various items they have available. Sounds pretty lame, right? Nope.

The HitBliss store contains a wide variety of movies and TV shows – and no, I don’t mean old or B movies – I mean real movies, many recent blockbusters (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Gatsby, After Earth, Oblivion, Thor, Now You See Me, The Croods, The Help, Inception)…and real TV shows – and not just from network TV either (BBC, HBO, FX, The History Channel). Many of these films/shows are not available via Netflix or Hulu Plus.

A screen capture from the front page of HitBliss which includes a sreenshot of the HitBliss. Unnecessarily complicated? Yes.
A screen capture from the front page of HitBliss which includes a sreenshot of the HitBliss. Unnecessarily complicated? Yes.

This is how it works. You let HitBliss run a little app on your computer that analyzes your web browsing habits (it can be easily turned off for a period of time and by default disables itself if you are using incognito browser sessions). It uses this analysis to determine what products/services you are likely to be interested in. When you want to earn some money – you open the HitBliss application and choose earn. Click on HitBliss Earn and HitBliss will begin playing advertisements it believes will be relevant to you. You can save or bury ads – if you bury an ad you won’t see it again. As the ads play you’ll notice little blue bars at the bottom right being filled. This indicates the amount of money you are earning – you can earn up to $5 at a time. Then go back to the HitBliss Store and use the cash to purchase/rent TV shows/movies. $5 isn’t a lot – but it is enough to purchase two TV episodes or one movie and one TV episode. When you’ve used up the cash, go back, earn some, purchase show/movie, rinse, and repeat.

The niftiest feature they’ve added recently is integration with Amazon. They have numerous movies available via Amazon’s Video on Demand service (no, I don’t mean the ones you get free with Amazon Prime) and you can purchase Amazon through HitBliss.

Right now it is a fairly primitive implementation. It looks like when you click on purchase for something via Amazon, HitBliss purchases a gift certificate to Amazon, automatically purchases your selected show/movie on your behalf using the gift certificate, and then launches in your web browser the page for the particular movie/show you selected – from whence you can begin instantly watching your purchase (that you made without having to spend any real cash).

Now the problem with these sorts of programs is two-fold. Those who have been around the internet will remember the madness pre-2000 when any idea that was internet focused was having huge amounts of money thrown at it – including ideas that involved paying people cash for their time such as AllAdvantage. Most of these programs went belly up after burning through their cash.

Those programs that did survive brought to the surface another problem…in order to remain viable the programs had to reduce the payouts so significantly that you couldn’t make any significant cash…unless you were the “referrer” for literally hundreds of other users (changing these programs into a form of multi-level marketing (MLM)).

It appears that HitBliss has landed upon a sustainable model. Its use of video ads means that they are worth more per view than traditional image/text ads…their use of random checks to make sure you are actually watching the ads help reducing the prevalence of gaming the system, and their restriction of purchases to items in the HitBliss store allows them to control what is being purchased based on how affordable it is for HitBliss to offer the product.

In addition to the movie and tv options, HitBliss also allows you to purchase a Pandora One subscription for $3.99 for one month. Pandora is a well-known web-based, custom radio station – Pandora One is the same but with premium features including no ads, higher quality audio, a desktop app, and so on.

One last item – what about the earn rate? I mean, is this like so many other programs where it takes years to accumulate the necessary points to earn cash? No. I’d guesstimate it takes around 10 minutes of videos to get a full $5 credit…working out to around $30/hr. spent watching ads (which are usually decent entertaining in and of themselves).

Well, that is all I’ve got. I hope you’ll give it a try…and use this link. I’ll get $2 for each person who joins via it and you’ll get $1.

Movie Review: Evil.

Sometimes movies sit in my Netflix queue for a long time. Netflix suggests that I will really, really like them – but I’m not convinced. Finally, I give it a try and almost without fail, Netflix’s recommendation is right on – this is the case with the film Evil.

The cover for the Evil movie on some DVD's.
The cover for the Evil movie on some DVD’s.

What sort of film would be titled Evil? No, it is not a horror film. Rather it is about a boarding school in Stjärnsberg (Sweden) and especially the tribulations of Erik Ponti, a young man from an abusive background, who refuses to bend to the hierarchical and arbitrary rules of the student body (which are overlooked by the teaching staff).

The film is loosely based on one of Sweden’s most popular novels (which is semi-autobiographical) of the same name by Jan Guillou and was released in 2003. It is in Swedish and has English subtitles. You can learn more about the film on the IMDb and Wikipedia pages.

Why did this film appeal to me? Because of the ethical questions it raises. Namely,

  • Why does an individual become “pure evil?”
  • Is it possible for such an individual to become good?
  • What would be the catalyst for such a change?
  • What is the appropriate manner in which to address injustice?
  • What should one do when standing up for justice results in suffering and loss for friends or family who have not asked to be part of your campaign for justice?
  • Are there some individuals who are so firmly fixed in their “pure evil” ways that they must be destroyed?
  • How should we handle unethical behavior by our heroes/leaders?
  • At what point does one become an active participant in “evil” simply by inaction?

The film is officially not rated. If the MPAA had reviewed the film, they would have assigned it an R rating. The film contains brief episodes of profane/crude language, an incident of sensuality, an ongoing theme of sadistic violence, and a scene with non-sexual, almost male nudity.

Wait a moment…How can one have “almost” male nudity? Excellent question. All I can say is that if I did not warn you about it, you would say “There is a naked man in that film!” But now that I have told you, you will tell me, “There is no naked man in that film!” To which the answer to both statements is – yes.

For mature audiences I’d suggest this is a great film with an interesting story line which provides ample opportunity for discussion.

A Useful Tip: How to Boost Your Laptop Speakers.

Laptops are great. You can take them with you wherever you go – but they tend to lack in the speaker department. Between the cooling fans in the laptops and any background noise in your environment, watching or listening to anything on your laptop can be a real chore.

Sure, you can wear headphones/ear buds and that is often an excellent choice – but what if you want others to hear as well? At some juncture you may need to plug in external speakers – but that sort of defeats the idea of a laptop. You could buy wireless speakers but they are pretty pricey. So is there any affordable option that will allow you to maintain your mobility and increase your laptop’s sound? Yup – and it isn’t just affordable, its free.

In Windows[1] click on Start, then Settings, then Control Panel. You should see a window like this:

A snapshot of Windows Control Panel in Windows 8.
A snapshot of Windows Control Panel in Windows 8.

Yours may appear a little different. If it only has a few icons or looks significantly different, look in the top-right corner. Note how in the window above it says “View by: Large icons” – change whatever it is currently set as to Large icons and your window should more closely match the one above.

Once you’ve done this you’ll need to open the Sound application, so click on Sound. You should see a window like this appear:

This is what the Windows sound application looks like on opening.
This is what the Windows sound application looks like on opening.

Now we need to select the speaker we’ll be working with. In my case, I have three different options – Speakers (High Definition Audio Device), Headphones, and Speakers (USB Multimedia Audio Device). We’ll want to select the Speakers (High Definition Audio Device) and then click Properties at the bottom right of the window. Now a new window should open that looks like this:

This is the Speaker Properties window of the Sound Application.
This is the Speaker Properties window of the Sound Application.

Great! We are almost there. Click on the Enhancements tab. You’ll see a window like this:

Speakers Properties Enhancements Window
Speakers Properties Enhancements Window

Ensure that “Loudness Equalization” is checked. Note the description under “Enhancement Properties”: “Loudness Equalization uses understanding of human hearing to reduce perceived volume differences.” In other words, if you are watching a movie and people are speaking normally and you can hear them fine but then the movie moves to a scene where individuals are whispering, this option will automatically boost the volume of those whispers so they can still be heard by the human ear.

Click OK at the bottom to close out the Speaker Properties window and then OK at the bottom of the Sound Properties window to close it out. Now give it a try – you should notice that your computer’s volume has “appeared” to increase.

The actual max volume your laptop speakers are capable of hasn’t increased, it is just that Windows is now increasing the volume of sounds that previously were being generated at a lower volume.

  1. [1]Sorry folks, I’m not familiar with the process, if there is a process, for doing the same on Mac OS X or Linux.

Move Review: Special Forces (R)

Special Forces is a 2011 French film depicting a French special forces unit that is air dropped into Pakistan to rescue a war correspondent who has been captured by a volatile and violent militia. The mission goes awry and the spec ops force is thrust into a protracted running battle with the militia forces.

The film stars Djimon Hounsou as the leader of the special forces unit. I am a fan of Hounsou’s, so this attracted me to the film immediately.

Co-starring is Diane Kruger as the captured war correspondent. While she has acted in several films I have seen in the past, she was not a name I recognized – but after this film I will keep my eyes open for future films in which she acts, as I thought she did a great job alongside Hounsou.

Unfortunately, Kruger was kept in the somewhat stereotypical “helpless female” role. While the male soldiers stand fast she scurries for the rocks and even when given a gun never seems able to use it. She is portrayed as being strong in character – but still, the overall “helpless female” stereotype is reinforced rather than undermined.

Raz Degan also shares the limelight as the strangely westernized leader of this Taliban militia. There are several aspects of the story regarding his character which are left underdeveloped and I think another film could be made dealing only with his character and what brought him to the place of leading this militia.

We have Gettysburg for the American Civil War, Saving Private Ryan for World War II, We Were Soldiers for Vietnam, and Black Hawk Down for Somalia as semi-defining films for each war. Special Forces could have been this for Afghanistan/Iraq/Anti-Terror, but due to its fictional storyline, it falls short of comparison with the films mentioned above.

The film contains a fairly constant stream of violence and some outbursts of profane language. The film is primarily in French, but English plays a significant role as well.

Overall, I’d give the film 8/10. A good film to watch with some thought provoking content at various junctures…but this is not most people’s opinion of the film. It appears to have been largely panned by the critics…so, take my recommendation with a grain of salt. I’ve embedded the trailer for the film below.