Daily Archives: 10/03/2004

Earthsea Miniseries

Watching a bit of the SciFi Channel this evening and I came across a teaser for an upcoming miniseries, Earthsea. It is an adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, featuring Danny Glover and Isabella Rossellini.

Sounds good to me, I’m itching to see it, but it won’t be out until December.

Nuclear Batteries

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University are busy creating nuclear powered nano-batteries for use with microscopic sensors and electronics.

Conventional batteries are basically cans of chemicals, a design unchanged in two centuries. Unfortunately chemical batteries do not scale well, reducing a battery by a scale of 10 reduces the energy output 1000 times. Engineers are forced to hook up miniscule sensors the size of a pinhead to chemical batteries the size of a button.

Radioactive batteries harvest the decay of high energy electrons from certain isotopes to produce an electrical charge. The amount of current is miniscule, about 3 nanowatts – certainly not enough to power a cellphone or PDA – but the battery runs at full power for the half life of the isotope which can be months. This trickle of energy is enough to power small sensors and electronics for extended periods.

Sky Captain

Angelina Jolie in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
I went to the movies last night and watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. What a disappointment. The movie got lots of good reviews and favorable press, but I did not like it. Not at all.

I don’t know if the print I watched was bad, or the projector faulty, but the movie was dark. Muddy and dark. I couldn’t see what was going on a lot of the time. I understand the movie was heavily processed in post production: The actors were filmed entirely on a blue screen soundstage, then the sets, props and background were added digitally. Maybe that contributed to the murky tone of the film. All I know is I was squinting at the screen, trying to make out the actors lost in a murky, sepia toned digital landscape.

Secondly the plot was incoherent. It didn’t make any sense, and as the movie reached its conclusion, it made even less sense. Giant robots kidnapping scientists and looting the world’s great cities. Sky Captain’s private army located in the mountains surrounding Manhattan. A uranium mine in Nepal and a brief visit to Shangra-La (I wonder if Frank Capra was scouting the location). The Royal Navy’s flying boats and submarine airplanes. Mysterious vials of who-knows-what, so vitally important to the plot that it is never explained what they are. Some sort of doomsday plan that involves shooting a massive rocket loaded with animals into space, thereby annihilating the earth. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I had high hopes for Sky Captain, buoyed by an impressive review from Roger Ebert. He loved the movie, comparing it to Buck Rogers shorts and the rollicking Raiders of the Lost Ark. I thought Sky Captain was far too leaden to deserve such comparisons. Indiana Jones was fun, Sky Captain was leaden and incomprehensible.

I also saw Resident Evil: Apocalypse back on Monday. Despite a legion of bad reviews, and a recent spate of zombie movies, I really enjoyed Resident Evil. It’s certainly not a great movie; plenty of plot holes and a cast of forgettables (aka zombie chow), but it is fun. The action scenes were exciting, even when it just involved shuffling zombies. That trope is a little tired and thankfully there’s a slew of other things hell bent on destruction in this movie. Mutant dogs, bizarre leaping mutants, and this invincible ‘Nemesis’ wandering the city with heavy weaponry, hunting Milla Jovovich.

Ebert loathed this movie, giving it only a half star, but I went anyway. And I liked it. I thought it was much better than the heralded Sky Captain, especially for a zombie movie based on a video game. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Milla, but Resident Evil was much more enjoyable. Hell I might just go see Resident Evil again when it hits the cheap movie theater in a couple weeks.

One final thing. Angelina Jolie is not a major character in Sky Captain, despite advertising to the contrary. She’s onscreen for a couple scenes towards the very end of the movie and that’s it. Milla Jovovich is the major character in Resident Evil, and she’s in almost every scene. So in the battle of Hollywood mega-babes, Milla wins this one hands down.