Archive for June, 2007

 Live Free or Die Hard

Few movie franchises make it to the fourth installment, and there’s a reason for that. By the fourth one they’ve typically run out of steam. Notable exceptions to this rule are Lethal Weapon 4 and this movie. The original Die Hard (1988) was a seminal movie, defining a genre of wise-cracking, unkillable, near-super-human-cop movies. So it’s surprising to see that, after almost twenty years of imitators, this movie still feels fresh.

This movie goes back to its roots in the original for several humorous references (yet another agent Johnson of the FBI) as well as plot construction. The story is decidedly contemporary (dealing with terrorism and making plenty of references to DHS) so it’s quite interesting that there are so many parallels between it and the original — terrorists, hackers and the FBI all figure prominently in both films.

Speaking of hackers, as I predicted, Justin Long is still turning out great performances. He seems uniquely qualified to play the geek who is still cool and engaging (although I don’t think he comes anywhere near a Mac in this film). And the venerable Kevin Smith turns in a stellar cameo as the Hacker King.

Despite some remarkable battles with plausibility (the whole scene with the F-35 comes to mind), this is a great movie. Full of all the thrills and one-liners of previous installments, and Bruce Willis is still delivering the goods after almost twenty years.

 Binary Clock

With the closing of all the Discovery stores in the St. Louis area, there are some great deals to be had as they liquidate their inventories. As a result, my geek cred got a boost with this cool Father’s Day gift.

The display can be switched from Binary Coded Decimal (BCD) to straight binary, 12-hour or 24-hour format, and the blue LEDs have three different brightness settings. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your geek, find a Discovery store near you.

 Vehicle Warranty Scam

After searching for the phone number that appeared on the postcard I received (1-800-376-7044), I discovered this site and this site. This scam has apparently been going on for a while. A company that sells auto warranties sends these postcards that are made to look official (despite the atrocious grammar) to mislead people into calling the phone number and “renewing” their expired factory warranty. Mine didn’t even have a return address! Nice try.

As an aside, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that my Department of Motor Vehicles has sold or given away their database of personally identifiable information for presumably every driver in the state of Missouri. Thank goodness they don’t have my real address either.

[Update July 25, 2007] I just got another one of these scam letters in the mail. This one was on letterhead that said “Dealer Services” and was signed by a “Russell Garland, Senior V.P.” Same deal, different phone number — this one was 1-800-607-8786. The fine print on the back did have a couple real addresses though. I guess it’s possible this one’s legit, but unfortunately for them, there are too many scammers in their line of work.

[Update Nov 1, 2007] It appears the fine folks at Dealer Services in Wentzville, MO are a busy lot. If these comments are to be believed, they are also behind a huge phone scam centered around another phone number (1-609-948-0971) which has called my cell phone twice in the last two days.

 Knocked Up

My expectations for this one might have been higher than usual since I thought The 40-Year-Old Virgin was so good. While writer/director Judd Apatow has disappointed in the past — that Ron Burgundy movie is simply unwatchable — he delivers in this movie. For any thirty-something that has gone through the joys and travails of having a baby, there are plenty of references in this movie that will strike very close to home.

Oh, and keep an eye on Kristen Wiig. She is a scene-stealer in this film, her brilliant character work on SNL is reminiscent of Gilda Radner, and I predict her career is about to blow up.