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NetflixQueueShuffler is Updated

02 September 2006 » In Hacks, Movies » No Comments

An eagle-eyed user Mike Ryan noticed that Netflix changed the structure of the Queue page and sent in a patch. Download the updated NetflixQueueShuffler.

NetflixQueueShuffler Update

12 January 2006 » In Hacks, Movies » No Comments

I upgraded to Firefox 1.5 and found out that my NetflixQueueShuffler GreaseMonkey script no longer worked. So after some digging, I fixed it up and it’s available for your downloading pleasure.

Shuffle My Queue!

04 June 2005 » In Hacks, Movies » 2 Comments

This is a random world. And people seem to like randomness: witness the popularity of iPod Shuffle. I am no different. I also watch a lot of movies: my Netflix queue has 72 DVDs in it currently. Recently I wondered whether it was possible to randomize my queue, so that the next DVD that comes in is somewhat of a surprise. After emailing the Netflix customer support and getting back a completely unhelpful reply telling me that I can re-order the queue by changing the priority numbers and clicking a button, I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands.
Input: GreaseMonkey, Javascript, and a couple of hours of hacking. Output: NetflixQueueShuffler. I know that GreaseMonkey scripts site already has a Netflix queue randomizer, but I think that one is lame, since all it does is change the priority numbers and click the submit button for you. Mine actually re-orders the table rows visually and lets you do it a few times until you are satisfied with the randomness.

Kill Bill

07 November 2003 » In Movies, Reviews » 12 Comments

Last night I was in the mood to see an action flick. So it was between the latest Matrix installment and Kill Bill Volume 1. I am so glad I picked the latter.
“Kill Bill”, announced in the opening titles as “The 4th Film by Quentin Tarantino”, is a quintessential “revenge through martial arts” film that is all style and no substance. And that is what makes it good, along with a few other things. Tarantino manages to make us forget that the storyline is basically heroine going through the laundry list of her enemies and killing them one by one (or 88 at once in an extended scene). The movie can be easily dismissed by some as a gory, violent, purposeless imitation of the kung-fu flicks, but seen from another angle it is a beautiful homage to, and at the same time a parody of, the same genre. Tarantino has always been adept at blending black humour, action, unique characters, non-linear progression, and memorable dialogue, all spiced up by perfectly fitting soundtrack, and this effort is no exception. I was thrilled that “Lonely Shepherd” by James Last and Zamfir was picked as the movie’s theme and the melody works wonders there.
A good movie will have its scenes invading your mind for a long time after you see it. “Kill Bill” certainly does that for me. Now, I just need to wait for Volume 2.

Sweet and Lowdown / Y Tu Mamá También

25 August 2003 » In Movies, Reviews » 1 Comment

I found my unwatched Netflix movies while cleaning up after the move and watched them over the weekend. The first one is Sweet and Lowdown by Woody Allen, a fictionary biopic about the world’s “second-best guitar player”. Sean Penn, very good as usual, portrays Emmet Ray, a conflicted, arrogant, self-possessed, alcoholic man who nevertheless has an incredible talent. His strange hobbies of watching trains and shooting rats at the dump resonate throughout the film, as well as his obsession with Django Reinhardt, “that gypsy in France”, the only man he considers above himself in the art of guitar. The film has a sense of humor – it’s Allen, after all – and is punctuated by vignettes of present day jazz pundits delivering some “facts” on Emmet Ray. The film does not have much of a story arc, but the combination of Penn’s performance and the beautiful music heard throughout the film makes it memorable.
The second movie was Y Tu Mamá También, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. It is a tale of two teenagers who go on a road trip to an imaginary, non-existent beach they cooked up in order to lure their object of desire, Luisa – an older, married woman – along with them. The film shows incredible scenes of rural Mexico, contrasted against the opulence of the house where Tenoch, one of the teenagers, lives. One of the underlying themes, it seemed to me, was that of freedom: of actions, of openness, of living your life the way you want. Granted, there are a lot of sexual scenes in this movie, but they serve to enhance the interaction between Luisa, Tenoch, and Julio and bring out each one’s character into focus. The short, voiceover commentaries are perhaps my favorite feature of the film. Similar technique was used in Amelie to a good result.

Matrix Reloaded: The Abridged Script

10 June 2003 » In Funny, Movies » 1 Comment

After I posted my rant about the latest Matrix installment, it acquired a few comments from individuals who believe that firstly I am a moron who does not appreciate the artistic sensibilities of the Wachowski brothers and has a personal vendetta agains the movie, and secondly that the movie is a bridge that provides brain candy for people to nibble on while they wait for the next one. To which I say, learn to spell and read the abridged script of Matrix Reloaded that summarizes my own and many other persons’ feelings about the movie far better than I could express myself.

Reload again

22 May 2003 » In Movies, Opinion » 1 Comment

Sebastian Bergmann says that he enjoyed Matrix 2, and labels it “entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.” Sebastian, I enjoyed Matrix: Reloaded as well, don’t get me wrong. But look at all the hype behind this movie. It wasn’t created by just the fans who worked themselves into frenzy awaiting the release, salivating over every released tidbit of information, and endlessly annoying people in the theatre by shouting out, “You go, Neo!” The hype was nourished along by the creators of the film too, and I would submit that the final product does not live up to the free-floating expectations out there.

Matrix, Shmatrix..

20 May 2003 » In Movies, Reviews » 10 Comments

I saw Matrix: Reloaded last Friday. In a nutshell: fun comic book infused with armchair philosophy, but overall fails to live up to the unrealistically high expectations the first installment created. A lot of the aspects of the original are amplified to the point of contrivance: we had one Agent Smith, now there are a hundred Agent Smiths; we saw a few sentinels, let’s throw thousands of them on the screen; we felt enthralled by a couple of great kung-fu scenes, why not have them occur every 15 minutes or so. Bigger is better, louder is better, more skin is better, more unanswered questions are better. But they still could not stop Keanu from looking like he is being manipulated by a particularly inept puppeteer.
Particular pet peeves:

  • The Wired article practically gushed over how the cinematography and visual effects in this movie would push the filmmaking 10 years ahead. You know what? I could still tell, without any real effort, the transition between live and CG portions, especially in the courtyard fight scene. Virtual actors still do not look like real actors, so hey, don’t throw away your SAG card if you got it.
  • Was it a simple case of we-are-smarter-than-you or a particularly egregious desire to make your audience wish they had Merriam-Webster handy during the most crucial scene of the entire movie? In any case, Brothers Wachowski, you blew it. Half of the people I talked to said that the Architect’s speech went over their heads. You weren’t making movie for academics, after all. Vis-a-vis the current point, what was it about “having 23 people, 16 man and 7 women, repopulate Zion”? Why would Zion be saved if Neo chose the other door?
  • Gratuitous sex scene: hey, Keanu looked stiff even there.
  • Who or what was the French guy?
  • One of the Twins fires, oh, about 7,000 bullets into the car that Morpheus, Trinity, and the Keymaker are in. No one is hit. A cross-eyed drunk anti-gun pacifist would have a better kill ratio than that.
  • So, let me get this right. Neo exhibits supernatural powers in The Matrix, and somehow they “leak through” to the real life? If that’s true, it’s so unbelievable that the series should end right there. The only plausible explanation is that everything, including Zion, is inside The Matrix, but that’s a depressing thought.
  • Apparently, virtual extraction of virtual bullet can heal your real self. How convenient.
  • Did they hire Neal Stephenson specifically to write the ending?
  • From now on I will remember that the solution to the problem of choice and destiny is to get naked and do the tribal dance until the wee hours of the morning.
  • As Howard Stern put it, “the whole thing was just ill-conceived”. At this point, I think X-Men 2 was a better sequel. More consistent, if anything. For now, I’m looking forward to The Animatrix.