Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Movie Reviews: Paycheck and Confidence

I saw two movies recently that both left the box office pretty quickly and only got so-so reviews; both are from 2003. I caught them on cable and enjoyed both much more than I expected. The first is Paycheck, a sci-fi story starring Ben Afleck. It's based on a Philip K Dick story and as such as some similarities to Minority Report. Affleck plays Michael Jennings a reverse engineer who takes jobs and then has his mind wiped afterwards to prevent him from leaking company secrets. He takes a 3 year job and afterwards find things not quite as he expected and of course with no memory of what he did. In the end, the story basically works and is kinda fun. It doesn't have the budget, the action (though it has some as it was directed by John Woo), or the toys of the future that Minority Report did, but it was pretty good film.

The other film I saw is Confidence. It's a grifter/con film starring Edward Burns and has a Dustin Hoffman and several other recognizable faces. To make up for a glitch in a job, Burns' team has to do a job for Hoffman which is to hit someone else, and of course the cops and feds are involved. At one point Burns says in voice-over that to pull off a con you have to be 20 steps ahead of the mark. This film trys to do that and it's fun, it's not a con that anyone would (or could actually set up, but it's an entertaining movie.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

All Politics is Personal

This is the best article I've read on the Judicial nominees and the compromises reached and the effect they will have; not much.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Stupidity in the Name of Security

Here is a story that shows how easy it is to scare people into doing things in the name of security. It basically says "The US Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI outlined Thursday...allowing airline passengers to use cellphones during flights could help potential hijackers coordinate an attack or trigger a bomb smuggled on board." These people seem to have forgotten that cell phones were the single biggest reason 9/11 wasn't worse. Without them a fourth plane probably would have crashed into the White House. But because the device could potentially be used for evil, they should be banned. The problem is, anything could be used for nefarious purposes. A shirt could be used to strangle someone, should we ban them? We've learned trucks and fertalizer can be used to blow up buildings, should we ban them? Hands can be used to punch someone, should only people without hands be allowed to fly? While I don't look forward to being on a long plane ride with 300 people chatting away on their cell phones, this argument made by people who are supposed to be protecting us, is frightening.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Smooth Tiger Upgrade

After my upgrading Norton AntiVirus my experience upgrading to MacOS Tiger was wonderful. Insert the CD, double click, less than a half hour later reboot and be up and running. Run Software Update and download 10.4.1, reboot and check things out. Basically everything worked. Mail was a little flakey contacting gmail to send and receive but worked itself out by the next morning. Spotlight took less than half an hour to index my 50 GB of data. I had previously updated all the software I use except for QuickSilver and Emacs (their Tiger versions didn't run on Pather). Everything just works, gotta like it.

Finally, A Senator Says Something Good

I've been watching the Senate on CSPAN2, it's been pretty interesting due to the fight on judicial nominees. Most of the speeches have been lame, it's obvious all the dealing is happening behind closed doors. But today Senator Arlen Spector (R-PA), Judiciary Committee Chairman, made a great speech. He said both sides are to blame (50:50) for the current problems and the first step to a solution is admitting that. Here's my transcript of a little of what he said today at 11:33AM EDT:

"The pattern of delay arose during the last two years of Reagan's tenure after the democrats regained control of the senate in 1986. President Reagan's circuit court nominees were delayed and 7 were denied hearings and 2 more were denied floor votes. The pattern of delay and denial continued through four years of President H. W. Bush. President Bush's lower court nominees waited and average of 100 days to be confirmed which was about twice as long as had historically had been the case. The democrats also denied hearings for more nominees. For President Reagan the number was 30 for Bush Sr. the number jumped to 58. When we Republicans won the 1994 election and gained the Senate majority, we exacerbated the pattern of delays and blocking nominees. Over the course of President Clinton's presidency the average number of days for the Senate to confirm judicial nominees increased even further to 192 days for District Court and 262 days for Circuit Court. Through blue slips and holes 70 of President Clinton's nominees were blocked and blocked in key circuits so it was no surprise when the democrats were searching for a way to return the favor, to keep vacancies in the same circuit courts because of what they concluded was inappropriate treatment. When the democrats initiated the unprecedented move of a pattern of filibusters, and it is true there have been filibusters in the past, but never a pattern, never a systematic effort as has been evidenced recently. And then President Bush responded similarly in an unprecedented move by interim appointments. Never been been done in the history of the Republic where the Senate even by filibuster would be greeted by an interim appointment by the President. That impasse was broken when President Bush agreed to refrain from further recess appointments. Against this background of bitter and angry recriminations, with each party serially trumpeting the other to get even or really to dominate."

He said that this is not about qualifications since Democrats have offered as a compromise to allow Republicans to choose one of four of the nominees to be confirmed. So it's not that they are all repugnant, they are in fact qualified and being used as pawns. He then said:

"Such deal making confirms public cynicism about what goes on behind Washington's closed doors. Instead my suggestion is that the Senate considers each of the four without the constraints of party line voting. Let the leaders release their caucuses from the straight jacket of party line voting and even encourage members to vote their consciouses on the issues of great national importance. It should not be a matter of heresy for someone in this chamber to suggest that senators exercise their own individual judgment and follow their consciouses as opposed to party line voting. But the regrettable fact of life is that the dominant force or the dominant power in this chamber is party line voting. When you come to a matter on a change of the Senate rules on materially affecting the rights of the minority, there ought to be no question that the party ought not to be the determinant."

I wish they all thought this way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Joy of Windows

I still have my Dell PC and there are some things you just have to do, like keep your anti-virus program updated. I had Norton AntiVirus 2002 and my yearly subscription was up so I decided to renew. Here are the steps I followed today:
  1. At the website my choices are:
    • $25 buy a year of virus definition updates a now unsupported AntiVirus 2002
    • $30 to upgrade to the current AntiVirus 2005
    I choose the upgrade.
  2. I buy it, checkout, and download a setup.exe
  3. I double click it and it installs a download manager
  4. I double click it and it downloads AntiVirus 2005 and runs it for me
  5. It tells me to uninstall the old 2002 product via Window's Add/Remove Programs
  6. I do that and have to reboot (first time)
  7. My machine restarts and I have two new icons on my desktop: NAV05ENG.exe and "Norton AnitVirus 2005" I somehow instinctively know to choose the first and run it
  8. It installs and I have to reboot (second time)
  9. The configuration stuff restarts on its own (thank you) and tells me to download the latest updates
  10. I do that and a message tells me to run Live Update again to get everything, but first reboot (third time).
  11. I reboot and an initial scan of all my files starts, without a progress bar
  12. 2 hours and 721,371 files looked at and I see 2 minor adware "threats"
  13. I can't figure out how to delete these adware threats (really, and I looked at the removal instructions!) so I leave them.
  14. I rerun LiveUpdate and it says everything is up-to-date so I don't know why it told me to run it again. I'm done.

I've definately been spoiled by the Mac. I won't bring up that I don't have an anti-virus program because I know in a few years that will change. But so far all my software installs (except for MS Office) including upgrades have been this simple: download a .dmg, double-click it to mount a volume, drag the icon to my applications folder, double click it to run it. That's it. This is why Macs are better than PCs. I'll be upgrading the Operating System shortly (installing Tiger) and I suspect that will be a little more involved, but after all, it is an Operating System.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


On Friday night I went to the Oak Ridge Observatory for a public viewing. It's an old facility owned by Harvard and the Smithsonian. There are several small brick buildings with roofs that retract. One had a 100 year old 6.5-inch refractor, another a 16-inch cassigrain, another a 25-inch newtonian and in the largest building a 61-inch reflector. Also several amateurs brought their own telescopes and set them up for others to look through.

At the start of evening all were pointing at the moon as it was the only thing bright enough to see at dusk. Then Saturn and Jupiter came out and a few other stars. But before we could look at dimmer things like galaxies, clouds rolled in. Still I saw good details of craters on the moon, the rings of saturn and some of its moons, and Jupiter with two lines of the gas clouds and 4 of its moons. We also spotted a satellite moving across the sky. I learned that satellites in a north-south orbit are probably spy satellites since such an orbit means they'll pass over every point on Earth.

Interestingly enough, someone's $350 8-inch Dobsonian offered as good views as any of the larger ones. The 61-inch probably isn't a fair comparison as it was designed more for film than visual viewings. The focal plane is too wide for the eye so you only see a little of the image at once. It turns out the size of the mirror determines how much light is gathered but for the moon and the planets there's plenty. The larger sizes only help in seeing dimmer things. Any of them can provide enough magnification to see the planets and moon well, and most other things they will just look like points of light anyway. You're not going to see anything like the pretty pictures in books.

Sadly this was the last time there will be public observing at this site as they are shutting it down this summer, moving most of the work to their Arizona facility.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Television Must Change

The MPAA is now going after sites that make BitTorrent files of TV shows available. If you don't know, BitTorrent is an efficient protocol for letting people share large files. What files you share are up to you, some companies release software this way and yes some people share things that they shouldn't. It turns out a lot of television shows are posted and you can download them. I've downloaded a couple of things via BitTorrent using the Azureus client.

The first was a 40 minute Star Wars fan film called Revelations and the second was an episode of Star Trek The New Voyages which is by a group of fans of the original series who are making new episode in years four and five of the original "five year mission". They have different actors playing Kirk, Spock, etc. These films are astounding in that the effects, sets, plots, etc. are like the originals they are portraying. The weakest part is the acting but you could argue that's faithful to their originals as well. Anyway, downloading these is clearly legal.

I've downloaded two other things. I missed an episode of Enterprise so I downloaded it and watched it. I also recently became a big fan of the cooking show Good Eats with Alton Brown. I downloaded the first of eight seasons which was 13 episodes at a total of 1.75GB which took about 6 hours. I've since watched 6 of these, but I've also watched 15 episodes from the Food Network via my Tivo and I've visited their web site. As a result of downloading these shows, I've watched more TV.

It's pretty clear that sharing movies in this way is illegal, it's a little less clear about TV shows, since they are sent to your home over the airways and the Supreme Court has upheld our right to record them (at the time with VCRs) for time shifting purposes. The MPAA is going after this services on a technical issue of how they work. When you download, you also upload so others can copy from you, it makes using the bandwidth far more efficient and is robust in the cases of machines going up and down. I'm not trying to distribute things illegally, I'm trying to watch stuff I had the right too but missed for whatever reason.

But even assuming it's illegal, the industry has to figure out how to use these technologies to their advantages. VCRs were a boon in spite of the fact the industry fought them to the Supreme Court. DVDs were feared as well, now they are saving hollywood's boat since people aren't going to theaters as much anymore and are buying DVDs left and right or renting from Netflix like services. iTunes has shown that people will be willing to pay for services like this if given the opportunity. I pay $150 a month for my cable TV bill (I get all the pay-movie channels and have a second box with HDTV service). I'd pay a $1 an episode to be able to watch something in high definition without commercials, at my leisure. The industry needs to stop suing their customers and start listening to them to make new revenue streams available. It's clear what people want, fill the void and make a fortune. It's obvious to me that in 10 years there will be a new revenue model for television, I wish it were here already.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

7 Minutes Redux

It seems that yesterday's scare in DC was a good test for safety protocols and in general things went well. People were evacuated quickly and orderly, fighters made it to the scene quickly and the situation was dealt with. Even better, in this case which was not an attack but rather a mistake, no one was hurt. It seems no one told city officials, like the mayor, and that needs to be fixed. But there was anothing thing the seems very wrong about the events of yesterday. It seems through out all of this one person didn't know what was going on, our Commander in Chief, President Bush.

I just heard presidential spokesman Scott McClellan take questions from the press on this and it disgusting how he avoided the issue. He kept saying protocols were followed and people with him were informed, but no one told him until 36 minutes after the all clear was given. Mr McClellan just kept repeating that protocols were followed and you have to understand this all happened in a matter of minutes. That's not an answer, I'm sure in the event of a real attack it would also be a matter of minutes and I'd expect him to have to make decisions. Mr McClellan also said the protocols take into account where the president is and that the president was never considered to be in any danger. Well I'm sorry, the White House, Congress, Supreme Court and therefore the country were considered to be in danger, our president should have known about it, and in less time than it would have taken an ICBM to hit us (about 30 mins, less than 10 if launched from a submarine). One reporter even asked on a purely personal basis didn't someone thing to inform him his wife had been evacuated? The answer was that yes people were evacuated or moved to secure locations, not answering the question.

And what was President Bush doing during this time that was so important no one thought to interrupt him? He was biking with a high school friend at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Beltsville, MD. Seriously. And no one told him it seems Washington DC could be under attack and that the alert level had been raised to red. How can you not think of the video of him listening to school children reading "The Pet Goat" for 7 minutes on 9/11. Combine this with the fact that he's been on vacation 40% of the time and I think it paints a disturbing picture.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Crossfire Sucks

I happened to have CNN on today to watch the airplane over Washington DC story I wasn't paying much attention and then Crossfire came on. I've never watched it before so watched for a little bit. I could stand it for about 10 minutes and I'll be sure to never watch it again. This is the kind of crap I saw on it, Robert Novak said: "Senator Harry Reid of Nevada the democratic leader of the Senate goes to the White House today, no wonder his aides and colleagues are holding their breath for fear of what he might say or do there. The senator has been on a tear lately, he referred to the great Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas as an embarrassment, he reviled the revered Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as a hack. And talking to high school students the other day he said this of the President of the United States, 'I think this guy is a loser.' The sad part is, democratic politicians like this talk but I'll guarantee you the American people hate it."

So which is it? Are his colleagues holding their breath for fear of what he might say, or do they like this talk? And by what measure is Clarance Thomas great? By any measure I've seen he's average, with no great decisions and an odd habit of never asking questions during hearings. And am I mistaken that a few years ago the republicans were unhappy with Greenspan? And finally is calling the president a loser any worse than Dick Cheney telling Patrick Leahy to "go fuck yourself"? Now I know what Jon Stewart hates about these crappy shows, they suck.

The Power of Google

I happened to be watching MSNBC during today's lunchtime evacuation of the white house and capital. I switched between MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. CNN was first to report a single engine plane and 2 F16s in the air that fired flares. MSNBC was first to report the all clear. Fox was the only one to report that the RNC headquarters were also evacuated.

CNN showed the plane once it was on the ground. The early shots showed the registration numbers. I googled it and it turns out google reports aircraft registration number listings from the FAA. I instantly found the name and address of the owner. A few clicks on google maps and I could see a satellite photo of his neighborhood but there wasn't much detail of that area. His phone number is unlisted and I can't find much other info about him for free. Though I did find a few services that would do a background check on him for under $10.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Designing Biology I

Last Friday I went to a free one day conference at Harvard University called
Designing Biology. There were five presentations covering various areas of covered research. While the conference was meant for laymen, I still found I had to try hard to keep up in a field I wasn't familar with.

The first presentation was by Nobel Prize winner Linda Buck on the sense of smell. I think this was the first time I was in the same room as a Nobel Prize winner, pretty cool stuff. She began by saying she studied "perception" which struck me as sounding very general, but in this case, it's quite apt for studying one of the five senses. It turns out mammals can detect odors and pheromones and they use two different mechanisms to do so. The difference is that pheromones are hard-wired to a specific physiological response. Also it seems while other animals can detect pheromones there is no proof that humans can. As mice detect smell there are three layers of sensors involved, Odor Receptors (OR) in the nose transmit signals to the Olfactory Bulb (OB), an intermediary mass of nerves, and then to the Olfactory Cortex (OC) in the brain. A combinatorical method is used by the nerves, so an odor may trigger many OR sensors, which trigger a few OBs and and then many OCs. It was amazing to hear that to test these hypothesis they used transgenic mice built to track specific oders through the system and then checked brain slices, as if this was an ordinary thing.

The next presentation was by Drew Endy and was about applying engineering princples such as standarization and abstraction to genetics. He talked about his work with Bacteriophage T7 and how in 10 years they've only figured out what half the base pair sequences do. There seems to be some overlap in the genes so they tried modifying the gene sequence, duplicating some of the genes to avoid the overlap. This is analogous to writting slow software that's easier to understand as opposed to highly optimized but difficult to maintain code. He then talked about thinking of gene sequences as parts, which can be assembled into devices and then into systems, just like engineering parts. If you could find a sequence that was an inverter, you could combine them to make an oscillator. And what if you posted them on a website for others to find and use in new and novel ways. Amazing as it sounds, this parts site exists today. The he described a project in which undergraduate students built an organism that, I guess the word is lived, a particular Game of Life, see slide 36 of his talk. Then he showed an image of fluorescing bacteria that acted as a display showing the words "Hello World". Just astounding.

More later.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What Am I Doing?

I've never been able to figure out if I like Arianna Huffington but regardless she has her own blog now and get's posts from people like: Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Tina Brown, John Cusack and David Mamet. In a post today on nuclear proliferation Ed Markey (D-MA) ends with: "I will blog more after I meet Hans Blix to discuss a sensible plan for addressing this serious nuclear threat that we are facing." And I imediately questioned why I bother writting some of the stuff I do. Sigh.

Real ID Again

I wrote about the Real ID Act in February, but it's become a hot topic this week as it comes up for a vote in the Senate. Security expert Bruce Scheiner explains the problems better than I can. unrealid.com has a form that you send email to your senator to vote against it but they've apparently succumbed to high traffic and are down. The Real ID Act has been attached as an amendment to a Senate bill funding the military in Iraq, so it looks like it's going to pass regardless and without any debate >in Congress (there was none when it passed in the house). I honestly don't understand how our government is supposed to work. And before I get another comment like I did last time, it's not necessarily the ideas in this bill that are bad, it's how they are written (broadly and with issues) and how it moved through congress that I object to.

Sand Art

Found this via boing boing Pretty amazing sand art here and here

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Movie Review: After the Sunset

A heist film, starring Pierce Brosnan, with some beautiful scenes in the carribean, has to draw comparisons to The Thomas Crown Affair. That's a better film, but After the SunSet is still fun. I have to confess, I'm not objective when it comes to any film with Salma Hayek but I'll try.

This film has the standard setup of a pair jewel thieves (Pierce Brosnan as Max and Salma Hayek as Lola), that pull off a last heist and then retire. Woody Harilson plays Stan the FBI agent that's been unable to catch them for seven years. Then, of course, the third in a set, of which they've stolen the first two, is on display on a cruise ship docked at the carribean island they've retired to. Lola wants to stop, but Max is bored with retirement and is tempted. Stan shows up and watches them but oddly what follows is mostly a buddy movie between Max and Stan. Don Cheadle does a fun turn as the local crime boss who wants Max to steal the diamond for him, yet another temptation.

The nice thing about the film is that aside from some extremes with remotely controlling a car, the caper works and has some good turns. The acting is a little weak. I wanted Pierce Brosnan to be a little less stiff and Woody Harilson to tone it down a little, and of course more scenes with Salma Hayek. The result is a film that isn't quite as engaging as it should be, but is saved because the end is better than the middle.

The DVD has some very good extras. There are a lot of deleted scenes which are pretty fun to watch and a good one hour documentary on the making of the film and a good commentary track. There's also a good short feature on the 150 visual effects used in this film, mostly to match up weather conditions from various shots. It's really remarkable how digital effects make film making process so much easier and aren't noticeable to the audience.

Actors Worth Watching

I once said that Edward Norton was one of the few actors that were worth seeing in anything they were in. I was asked "who are the others?" and didn't really have a complete list. Here's an attempt. These actors are both very skilled and choose good films to be in, very few of their films are crap. For example, all of Edward Norton's films are worth seeing with only one (glaring) exception which is "Death to Smoochy". Morgan Freeman is a wonderful actor who'e been in many great films but also in many that are not good, so he doesn't make this list. Hilary Swank as been in a few great films, but not yet enough to make up for "The Core". So here's my list, in no particular order.

  • Sean Penn - he's great in everything he does
  • Meryl Streep - our greatest living actress
  • Don Cheadle - he can play anything
  • William H. Macy - just brilliant
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - there's a reason Paul Thomas Anderson casts him in all his films
  • John C. Reilly - fantastic character actor
  • Russell Crowe - amazing intensity and range
  • Edward Norton - except for Death to Smoochy
  • Nicole Kidmann - she has a huge range and takes risks
  • Jodie Foster - doesn't do much lately but it's all worth seeing
  • Daniel Day-Lewis - does even less but becomes his characters
  • Benicio Del Toro - he's amazing and while his movies don't reach greatness, they are out of the ordinary and worth seeing
  • Liam Neeson - a wonderfully strong screen presence
  • Kevin Spacey - nothing great since american beauty but nothing horrible either
  • Johnny Depp - he's mesmerizing, even in movies that aren't great
  • Tom Hanks - he's good, from comedy to drama, and can pick the best scripts
  • Leonardo DiCaprio - except for The Beach, his films have all been good
  • Saturday, May 07, 2005

    Movie Review: Robots

    This is an animated story by the people that brought us Ice Age. I wasn't a big fan of Ice Age, I thought the squirrel was the only funny thing, the rest was a bore. The reviews I read of Robots was that it was pretty but a lacking a plot, so my expectations were low. But I was pleasantly surprised, this was a lot of fun and had as much of an underlying message as Toy Story 2 (without the hit-you-over-the-head song).

    The film begins with the delivery of Rodney Copperbottom to his parents, some aseembly required. We see his growth as receiving a set of yearly hand-me-downs of parts to help him grow. He becomes an inventor in the spirit of the greatest robot of all, Bigweld, the CEO of the robot parts company. Rodney goes to the big city to work for Bigweld and his adventure begins. We get a pretty standard first trip to the big city, disappointment, rise to the challenge story. It works because of the fantastic graphics, good voice work, the wackiness of Robin Williams, and a lush world filled with Rube Goldbergesque contraptions (you'll love the transit system). While the plot is engaging and filled with visual puns, you can't miss the underlying messages that repairing the old is at least as good as going with the new and that you have to follow your dreams.

    I enjoy trying to guess the actors playing the voices of the various characters. I found this frustrating in this film as I didn't learn the names of many of the robots so it was hard to know who was who in the cast list. I wish they would show side-by-side the character and the actor doing the voice. They don't even do this on the offical web site.

    I'll Never Live in Kansas

    If you believe that Genesis literally describes how the Universe and life was created I have one question for you: Which came first animals or humans? Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe two different creation stories. In Genesis 1:24-28 it's pretty clear, on day six God created all the animals (Genesis 1:24-25) and then man and woman at the same time (Genesis 1:26-27). And yet in Genesis 2:7 we read God formed man from dust and in Genesis 2:18 we read man was alone so in Genesis 2:19 the animals are created and brought to Adam to name them and in Genesis 2:21-22 woman is made from one of his ribs.

    So which came first animals or man? And were man and woman created at the same time or was man created first? It amazes me that the people who ignore the huge body of evidence in support of evolution and bring up the small bits that are still unproven can ignore the contradictions in Genesis. The Intelligent Design "debate" going on in Kansas now, among other places, is a thinly veiled creationist argument. Many others have stated why this is nonsense and others continue to do so, but it still seems that many in this country (but oddly not in others) won't be convinced. I find this really depressing.

    Tuesday, May 03, 2005

    Succumbing to Marketing

    I've been avoiding sweets lately (lost 10 lbs so far) but I saw an article in the Boston Globe about the new trend in candy...limited edition variations. They mentioned Dark Chocolate M&M's and I had to try them. I found a bag at a CVS and it turns out they are Star Wars branded (the article didn't mention this). Check out the overly involved website, the trailer is kinda cute. It seems the light side of the force likes milk chocolate and the dark side likes, well, dark chocolate. The colors are: Dooku Blue, Greivous Silver, Emperor Red, Vader Black and Maul Purple. So how do they taste? Not all that different from the milk chocolate ones. Someone probably didn't want to dilute the brand, sheesh.

    Sunday, May 01, 2005

    Movie Review: The Interpreter

    In The Interpreter, Nicole Kidman plays Silvia Broome a UN interpreter who accidently overhears a plot to assassinate the brutal African dictator Robert Zuwanie who is speaking to the General Assembly in a week. She reports what she heard and the Secret Service starts to investigate. Sean Penn is the lead agent Tobin Keller and Catherine Keener is his partner. At first they doubt her story, but since we saw her overhear the coversation we know she's not lying and have to wait for the agents to catch up to us; fortunately this doesn't take too long.

    The film covers a lot of ground. In some parts we see the details of an investigation, from interviewing suspects, the moral issues of using someone as bait and the details of how to shoot an assassin so that they can't shoot or set off a detonator. In other parts we see the two leads build a relationship, learning to trust each other and revealing parts of their pasts. There is a wonderfully suspenseful scene as several suspects are followed simultaneously and manage to cross paths. There are also some twists and turns in the investigation, some background on African rebels, some cultural differences in dealing with mourning and forgiveness, and a little bit about working at the UN.

    You'd think with the team making this film that all of these pieces would come together to form a great thriller with just enough political and moral allegories to give it some weight, but it doesn't quite gel. Instead there's just a little too much crammed in and not enough time spent on any one of the aspects. At a few points I wondered how the secret service agents did so much when we didn't see them. It's also obviously constructed to keep the audience guessing. When I found out that several different writers worked on various drafts of the script (five people get writing credits, how many more worked on it?), these issues made a lot more sense.

    The Interpreter was clearly filmed in New York and much has been made of the fact that this was the first film ever to be filmed inside the UN. I supose it gives a good sense of realism, but never having been inside it I wouldn't have been able to tell if I was seeing a set or not. You certainly get no sense of the layout of the building or how that might influence what happens there. There are a few interesting cinematic helicopter shots over and around the building; but given the fantastic sense of geography Ridley Scott achieved in Black Hawk Down I wish I could see what he would have done with this opportunity.

    Overall my complaints are somewhat unfair. The Interpreter is a very good film and kept my interest throughout; for much of it I was on the edge of my seat. It had the opportunity to be a great film and it isn't that, and that's a disappointment.