Sunday, May 09, 2010

Iron Man 2

Let the Summer Blockbuster Season Begin

Since I saw Iron Man 2 on Friday I figure I might as well share my thoughts before we get into the normal stuff.

The original Iron Man is without equivocation considered one of the best comic book superhero movies ever by any comic book geek. Definitely top 5 if not top 3. Given that Iron Man was never a blockbuster franchise like Batman or Superman, I thought it was definitely special what Jon Favreau was able to accomplish with Robert Downey, Jr. and the Iron Man universe. It was a better origin story than Batman Begins in terms of pacing and probably a few other things and just a fun all-around summer movie. That's really huge shoes for a sequel to fill. Did it get it right? That's hard to say, to be honest. I think when people's expectations are high like they were for this movie you've gotta be perfect to really blow them away, and this movie didn't do that. Nonetheless, I thought it was a more than acceptable sequel and definitely well worth seeing.

Plot-wise, this movie takes over literally right where the first one left off and shows how the ending (which I don't want to spoil) gave rise to physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) as a villain using Stark's own arc reactor technology. Meanwhile, Tony Stark is dealing with the adverse health effects of the arc reactor in his chest while being watched closely by Nick Fury (Sam Jackson). I don't want to spoil anything by revealing any more than that, but suffice to say it's an interesting, though comic book far-fetched, storyline that diverts somewhat from the Iron Man comic book storyline to tell its own story. I thought it was actually a pretty well-written story. You have to really forgive the hand-waving with regard to the technological expertise of some of the main characters, but I personally watch 24 and am already well-seasoned in that.

Please marry me, Scarlett

I thought the acting was superb across the board. Robert Downing, Jr was possibly even better in this movie, Scarlett Johansson was the perfect casting for Black Widow (so glad that they didn't go with Emily Blunt), and Gwenyth Paltrow was still as sexy and sophisticated as ever. Johansson's role was a pretty decent female empowerment character (sans a couple of her outfits) and I was glad to see that they didn't really overdo it. I think some hardcore fans will be a little disappointed with her portrayal, but I thought it worked in the context of the movie. I think the re-casting of Rhodes was noticeably weird. I think Don Cheadle would've been fine if he was in the original as well, but whenever I saw him I just kept picturing Terrence Howard. I was happy overall with Mickey Rourke, he did his hokey Russian accent well.

The problem is that Iron Man 2 didn't bring to the table what Iron Man did because it didn't break the formula of superhero movies like that one did. It felt more like a continuation of the previous movie instead of something totally new. So less like The Dark Knight, which was a huge breath of fresh air, and more like X-men 2. The action scenes were great and the movie was so much fun to watch - especially the well-timed humor. However, it felt like a comic book movie. There's nothing wrong with that, it just means that it can't be extraordinary. I still give it an A- and strongly recommend seeing it yourself while it's on the big screen. Just don't bolt after the credits - they snuck in an extra scene like in the first one. It's not life-changing or anything, but it's something that will give you goosebumps if you're a comic book geek.

Kin Available this week

I know you've been waiting with bated breath so here it is: the new Kin will be available in Verizon stores on May 13 and is already available online. The creatively named Kin One and Kin Two are priced at $50 and $100, respectively, but apparently will have interesting data plan like the Sidekick.

However, Pre Central aggregated some of the reviews and they don't seem to be very positive. It seems like the phone was pretty half-baked overall and an uneven experience. The ideas from the original presentation that I originally raved about were apparently poorly executed. It looks like Kin Studio, the online timeline of your phone, is pretty decent, but the Kin Spot and a number of other features are disastrous user experiences. Despite the pricing being good, I'd be surprised if these flew off the shelves and insulted if people chose them over the Palm Pre or Palm Pixi, which are usually easy to find at those price points and have a lot more features, like pretty good call quality.

Treasury Site and Google Chat Hacks

There were a few security breaches last week, the most flagrant of which I felt was the U.S. Treasury websites being compromised and giving malware to its visitors. Well, technically they redirected to a Ukrainian site that gave out the malware, but what an embarrassment to that IT department that these guys injected HTML code. I'm guessing it was some sort of XSS variant, but they're being hush on the details. They already look bad - hiding the truth from the people who pay these idiots' salaries isn't going to make them look any better.

I thought I'd throw in this AP story about a vulnerability in how your web site requests are routed that could be disastrous if exploited. The bottom line is that TCP/IP, the protocol that the Internet operates on, was not built with security in mind because it was not designed for massive public use. I think this is something the U.S. government should step into to motivate a fix. The private companies apparently don't have a strong interest in fixing things but an attack on how Internet packets are routed could be really bad for our infrastructure.

Techcrunch was tipped off on a pretty big vulnerability last week regarding Facebook. It turns out that in where in your Privacy Settings you can see how other people view your profile, you can also see who they're chatting with. Rather than applying their restriction to how you view your profile, they basically gave you a window into their Facebook, more or less. You could even mess with their friend requests. Who knows how many people have exploited this without reporting it. It really calls into question Facebook's quality assurance principles. It's fixed now, but disturbing that it was out there for an indeterminate amount of time.

Facebook Under Fire

Riding off the coattails of that story, let's talk about the rabble growing against Facebook. It used to be that Facebook's changes were an annoyance that people just got used to. Now though, multiple people are being very vocal about their problems with Facebook and these editorials are getting a lot of eyeballs.

One blogger gave his ten reasons why you should quit Facebook while Wired calls for an open alternative where things make sense instead of following the whims of Facebook. This was mostly prompted by how Facebook is now sharing a lot of information about you to developers taking advantage of its new APIs and how the fact that Facebook encourages you to turn your text in your profile to "Pages" means that you're exposed through these "Pages" as being a fan of that thing to the world. Of course, there have been plenty of offenses leading up to this (how you can never really remove yourself, how your information is being passed along to third-party application developers, etc.), but ultimately their misleading policies have really become cause for some concern.

If you're stubborn like me and are hesitant to quit Facebook cold turkey, at least consider abating the amount of information you feed to it.

Final Notes

Ok, I'm running way behind on what I wanted to get done tonight because of a nap I took earlier. I'm going to have to cut out sooner on this post than originally planned. Here's what else I had for you:

Apple is now in the middle of an antitrust suit for anti-competitive practices. It's not clear if this is because of their ban on Flash or their patent lawsuits against HTC, but it'll be interested to see what happens. Some of their practices are unconscionable, but I'm not sure that they're illegal.

The FCC is still pushing forward on net neutrality trying to find a way around the court decision ruling that they can't regulate the ISPs.

The U.S. ranks 30th in the world in Internet speed. Even Andorra is beating us. Ouch.

Netflix is moving more of its computational power into Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Smart move. Much more efficient than buying and maintaining your own hardware for solving those big problems.

This is a pretty eye-opening breakdown of the cell phone providers in America by customer satisfaction and dropped calls.

Check out all the new features coming in the forthcoming Kindle firmware upgrade including password protection and better sharing capabilities.

It looks like Amazon has one of the biggest databases in the world, and it's pretty exciting that I help process some of that data every day. Anyway, check out who has the other enormous databases.

If you want to know what's on TV the Interweb, check out Clicker.

If you're on Windows and didn't know about Microsoft's Fix It tool, then go check it out now.

Last but not least, Google made a really awesome video advertising how fast Chrome is compared to things like sound and a potato gun. It's a lot of fun to watch.

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