Saturday, April 30, 2011

Time Machine Review: The memories and strangers of Dark City

In today’s Time Machine Review we’re traveling back to 1998 for Dark City.

In this film, written, directed, and produced by Alex Proyas, John Murdoch wakes up naked in a bathtub in a strange city.

There is blood on his forehead, and a murdered hooker on the floor of the room, but he doesn’t remember anything.

He’s launched into an adventure of discovery, as he follows the clues in an attempt to discover who he is, and to see if he’s the man who has been murdering prostitutes over the last few weeks.

The plot deepens when he discovers that there is more to the city than he thought. Once every twelve hours, the entire city falls asleep, and the buildings rearrange, but no matter how long he stays awake, the sun never rises.

When he discovers that the city is an alien experiment, and the population are the subjects, a mysterious psychologist must help him overcome The Strangers, and use their machines against them.

The film is an interpretation of the allegory of the cave in which the machinery of the city is the light of the fire, and the sun must be fought for by a great mental hero, who finds a greater truth, not just metaphorically, but also literally, and he is set up as both a liberator of the people and their new jailor.

Rufus Sewell plays a perfect distraughtly frustrated protagonist. His eyes blaze, and his voice wavers and cracks as the situation begins to take its toll on him, but as his confidence rises, and the final confrontation begins to take form, he plays well also the confident hero, doing what he must to save the city and the girl.

The role is a departure for Sewell who had mostly taken dramatic romances in the past, and it’s a shame that he didn’t see many other speculative scripts afterward either. His stint in 11th Hour was good, but not good enough to measure up to Patrick Steward - though, really, who could be?

Jennifer Connelly plays John’s loving but confused wife, a jazz bar singer with a rebellious streak.

The role is not much of a stretch for her, and the character she plays here is basically the same as every character she’d played before. She has a perfect face for pure bemusement, and this part called for quite a bit of that.

One of the most interesting actors to see in this one looking back is Kiefer Sutherland as the psychologist, Dr. Schreiber. He mostly known for his dramatic roles, and lately, especially for his action drama (which he produced, wrote, and stared in) 24. This film shows a breadth of acting that most modern fans likely don’t realize he has, after seeing so much of Jack Bauer.

In contrast, William Hurt as Detective Bumstead, is the same plain-faced character he is in every film. Much more homogenized even than Connelly. And, while Connelly has broken out and branched into new and different roles since Dark City, Hurt has not.

The effects in the film have aged well, and the pacing and flow of the plot still seems to work after 13 years. The film is dark, not just in scope, but also in many of the visuals, even making some scenes difficult to watch if not in a properly darkened room, but the darkness is fitting, and makes the bright and shiny pay-off at the end feel that much more satisfying, as one literally emerges from the darkness.

In 2008, New Line released the Dark City Directors Cut, which mostly included about fifteen minutes of establishing shots, and trailing visuals which were cur from the original film for time.

For example, the scene in which Connelly’s character is introduced in the Jazz bar gets shortened in the original cut, but in the newer version, she is let to sing - and rock her shapely hips - for a minute, at least.

The only thing removed is the opening Narration, which was added originally as an afterthought to help audiences get what was going on, but Proyas later felt that it revealed too much, and prefers the version of the film which jumps right into the opening scene. This new version of the film does improve upon the original, but not so much that it’s essential.

Weather it was influential, or just came first, Dark City headed up a brief trend for action oriented, high budgeted movies which asked questions about the realness of their worlds, includingThirteenth Floor and The Matrix, which both came out the following year - and were both also excellent films.

The now classic is a new staple of speculative fiction story-telling in film. It’s an excellent examples of how to do just about everything right in sci-fi filmmaking, combining some of the best stylistic and concrete elements of the history of film.

FBI says it is "reviewing" PSN security breach

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently "reviewing" a recent security breach that compromised user data and downed the PlayStation Network (PSN) for over a week.

"The FBI is aware of the reports concerning the alleged intrusion into the Sony on line game server and we have been in contact with Sony concerning this matter," special agent Darrell Foxworth toldKotaku.

FBI says it is "reviewing" PSN security breach "We are presently reviewing the available information in an effort to determine the facts and circumstances concerning this alleged criminal activity."

Meanwhile, at least two dozen state AG's have kicked off their own investigation of the incident, with the FTC confirming it could theoretically claim jurisdiction in a case that involved loss of customer data via a security breach. 

"The fact that sensitive information was apparently accessed without authorization makes me especially concerned about the possibility of financial fraud and targeted phishing scams," Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen wrote in an official letter to SCE CEO Jack Tretton.

"What is more troubling is Sony's apparent failure to promptly and adequately notify affected individuals of this large-scale breach."

As expected, a number of other countries aside from the United States have expressed concern over the embarrassing and damaging security lapse.

For example, the city of Taipei (Taiwan) is apparently demanding that Sony provide satisfactory details about the leak within 10 days or face heavy fines for alleged breaches of local consumer protection laws.

"Manufacturers and service providers should take responsibility for their customers' reasonable expectations of security, including personal information security," Taiwan capital's Law and Regulation Commission said in a letter obtained by PC World.

"This incident [is said to] involve leaks of consumer names, e-mails, birth dates and even credit card information."

Indeed, security researchers say stolen credit card information may already be up for sale on various Internet forums.

"The hackers that hacked PSN are selling off the DB. They reportedly have 2.2 million credits cards with CVVs," Trend Micro security expert Kevin Stevens claimed in a tweet.

"Supposedly the hackers selling the DB says it has: fname, lnam, address, zip, country, phone, email, password, dob, ccnum, CVV2, exp date... It is not a rumor, it was a conversation on a criminal forum. [Still], I never saw the DB so I can't verify if it is real."

Ubuntu Rescue Remix 11.04

Andrew Zajac has announced the release of Ubuntu Rescue Remix 11.04, an Ubuntu-based live medium which provides the data recovery specialist with a command-line interface environment equipped useful free and open-source data recovery and forensics tools: "Version 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' of the very best libre open-source data recovery software toolkit based on Ubuntu is out. This version features and up-to-date infrastructure and several new packages, including Dump, a backup and restore solution as well as ClamAV, the best in libre anti-virus software. Ubuntu-Rescue-Remix features a full command-line environment with the newsest versions of the most powerful libre open-source data recovery software including GNU ddrescue, Photorec, The Sleuth Kit and Gnu-fdisk." Here is the brief release announcement. Download (MD5): UbuntuRescueRemix1104.iso (224MB).