Where’s the Netflix Shelf?

The more movies and shows Ligia and I watch on Netflix, the more convinced we become that Netflix lacks a vital feature. We call it the Shelf. Where is it?

The Netflix Shelf would hold titles we’ve seen and loved. It would contain two collections: a smart collection, which would automatically bring together the titles we’ve rated 4 stars or higher), but more importantly a manual collection, where we could add titles we’d like to watch again in the feature — movies and shows we really love, perennial favorites if you will.

Within the Shelf, we could sort titles by genre, keywords, actor or director (using the metadata added by Netflix staff or metadata we could add ourselves).

There were so many occasions we saw a movie, loved it, wanted to store it somewhere so we could see it again in the future, but didn’t want to leave it in the queue, cluttering up the list of titles we still haven’t seen. There was and is no place for them yet, and that’s regrettable, because it’s a lost opportunity for Netflix to create customer goodwill at a time when they need it.

“The Princess Bride” cast reunite after 24 years

The cast of “The Princess Bride“, one of my all-time favorite movies, reunited recently for a photoshoot featured in Entertainment Weekly, and they gave a couple of interviews afterwards.

What a great movie, and what a great cast! I’m so glad the movie is still well-liked today!

Rampant piracy in Romania

Not sure if you know this, but Romania is a virtual no man’s land when it comes to movies, books and music. Romanians often get to watch movies before they’re in theaters in the US, and there’s a large loophole in Romanian copyright law that makes it nearly impossible to prosecute those who break the law and share digital copies of movies, books or music online.

I consulted with our IP lawyer, and the gist of it is that in Romania, you’re allowed to make a copy of a “book” for “private, home use”. But since there’s no reference to movies or music or anything else in the law, courts extend that same privilege to them. And by “copy”, the courts have come to understand digital copies as well. As long as you don’t charge for them, the courts consider them “private” copies. So that leaves the door wide open for all uninformed (and informed) people to share “private copies” of movies, music and books all over the net.

Back in 2009, I wrote an article about software piracy in Romania, explaining that when software costs $300 to buy (i.e. Windows), a typical Romanian won’t be able to afford it, because that’s their monthly salary. My advice back then, to those who wanted to do the right thing, was to look at Ubuntu, which is free, friendly and completely legal. Now I can add OS X to the list. At $29, it’s certainly affordable for a Romanian, and for the tech savvy people, it shouldn’t be too hard to put together their own Hackintosh. Although not entirely legal, as pointed out in this comment, it’s still a better alternative to running a pirated copy of Windows.

Something I cannot condone though is the piracy of books, movies and music. Their price is affordable to the typical Romanian. A book costs somewhere between $10-30, often even less than that. A movie can cost anywhere from $1-5 to rent and $5-20 to buy — or you can subscribe to Netflix and watch all the movies and TV shows you want for $7.99/month. Music costs $0.99-1.99 per song. There is no excuse for stealing these. Most anyone can save 20-50 RON in order to buy a book or a movie, if they really want it, and anyone can most definitely spare 3 RON to buy a song. And yet, most Romanians don’t. They willfully elect to download pirated movies, music and books whenever they can.

When did it become acceptable to steal something just because you can’t afford it? If you can’t afford it, then you can’t have it. Save up for it and get it later, you’ll appreciate it a lot more than if you steal it.

Want to hear the sad part? It’s not the poor Romanians who are stealing books, movies and music. No, it’s people who have the means to buy these things in the first place, who could afford to part with a few RON in order to get the latest song from their favorite artist, or to see the latest movie. Their lame and legally/morally invalid excuse is that the artist/movie studio/writer is already rich or that everybody’s doing it, because society’s progressing and the old ways no longer work. Which old ways would that be? The need to pay for a service or a good? Well, when I can pay for my utility bills or my mortgage with a movie I downloaded from a torrent website, that’s when we’ll talk about the old ways no longer cutting it.

Since when did someone who has no idea about the hard work that goes behind making a song or a movie or writing a book and getting it published, get to make a judgment about the artist’s financial health or about whether or not it’s okay to steal their work? When did it become okay to steal? This is tantamount to stealing a piece of clothing from a store, or a chocolate from a supermarket.

These same people who complain they have no money then go out and eat at restaurants, they have vacations at sea side resorts, they spend their weekends in the mountains. That is hypocrisy. Ever since my wife and I came to Romania, I keep hearing there’s a financial crisis going on, and everyone’s complaining about how little money they’re making, but whenever I travel the country, mountain resorts are full, seaside resorts are booked up, restaurants are full, coffee shops are full, marketplaces, supermarkets, stores and malls are full of people, everyone’s barbecuing, there are tons of cars on the streets, and money’s flying left and right. Where’s the financial crisis? 

I don’t care if the law’s not up to snuff, stealing’s never okay. Romanians always brag that they’re good Christians. If they were good Christians, they would know the eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.”

How to watch Netflix from abroad

At the start of 2009, when I left the US to spend most of the year abroad, I was an avid Netflix subscriber, and I looked forward to being one even as I lived abroad. There was a loophole in the Netflix protocols which allowed my wife and I to watch movies from outside the US (see this post), but they plugged it very quickly — within three days after I wrote about it.

I was, needless to say, very disappointed. Here I was, a US citizen, with a US mailing address, a US bank account and a US credit card, wanting to watch movies legally instead of downloading them from torrent websites, not able to do it, just because my IP address happened to be from another country. This was not fair. I cancelled my subscription. In hindsight, my anger was unnecessary. The situation is probably a result of certain stipulations in their contracts with the movie studios.

Still, there’s obviously a need for a legal way to watch movies online, right? And until Netflix (or another company) decides to open up their servers to paying customers from all over the world (which I hear might happen), here’s how to watch Netflix from abroad, right now.

You’ll need:

  1. A US credit card and a US mailing address. If you’re from the US but you happen to be abroad, great, you’re in luck, because you probably still have both of these. If you’re not from the US, see if you can make some arrangements with friends in the US.
  2. A VPN connection that will give you a US IP address, or a DNS Proxy Service subscription which will make Netflix and other US streaming sites think you’re based in the US. 
  3. A computer that’s compatible with Netflix Streaming. At this time, I believe only Mac and Windows computers can do it. The last time I tried it, a Linux machine wasn’t compatible. You could get a Netflix-compatible device or media appliance but if you want to keep things simple, stick with a computer.

That’s all you’ll need.

The DNS Proxy Service is a fairly new offering and is, in my opinion, the easiest way to configure your device to watch Netflix from abroad, without installing any additional software or configuring a custom VPN connection. You simply change the DNS servers for your network card (see these instructions).

Now let me talk a bit about the VPN service. In the two years I’ve spent abroad, I’ve used two services: AceVPN and HideMyNet. I’m currently using HideMyNet for my VPN service, and I’ve been using them for the past four months. Both cost about the same, but from my experience, HideMyNet has faster, more reliable service.

I started out with AceVPN but after several months, I started getting a lot of buffering messages when watching Netflix (you know, where you wait for it to load up the movie). It would take minutes, sometimes 5-10 minutes to load up a movie, and toward the end of my subscription with them, the movie would stop playing multiple times as we watched it, and we had to wait for it to rebuffer. It was annoying, particularly when the movie stopped playing during a gripping scene. Who knows, perhaps they were experiencing growing pains or temporary issues with their servers…

Out of the blue, the folks from HideMyNet contacted me to see if I wanted to try their service and write about it. Disclaimer: they offered me a 1-year subscription to give an honest opinion about their service. I told them I would, but that I’d need to try out their service thoroughly before I spoke about it, and if I found anything negative, I was going to reveal that as well. That was back in April of this year. It’s now August, four months later, and after all this time, I can definitely recommend them.

I do have a few pieces of advice for you:

  • If you’re not sure how to set up a VPN connection as L2TP or PPTP on your Mac, go with OpenVPN and Tunnelblick. Check out their setup instructions for the details. If you’re on Windows, setting up an L2TP connection is super easy and takes only a few minutes.
  • Make sure to ask their Tech Support which of their servers would be faster for you. Here’s some general advice I got from them on this issue: “Generally you want to connect to whichever server is closest to you [geographically]. If you’re in the EU you should try our DC and NYC servers. If you’re in Asia you should try the Seattle or LA servers. If you’re in South America you should try the Dallas and LA servers.” 
  • They currently have a limit of two simultaneously connected devices, so keep that in mind. I believe Netflix has the same limit, but if you were, for example, watching Netflix on one computer and browsing the internet on another, both through their VPN service, you wouldn’t be able to, for example, connect a third device (computer or phone) through the VPN service until you disconnected one of other two.

So there you have it. That’s how you can watch Netflix from abroad. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s legal.

On a side note, I can’t understand why movie studios prefer to hang on to costly and outdated ways of distributing content, and thus encourage piracy, instead of promoting lower-cost, easily available methods of renting or purchasing their content, for any customer, anywhere. There are many people who would rather pay than use torrents, but the cost is either too high, or there’s no way to pay even if they wanted to. Thank goodness for VPN technology, otherwise I’d start thinking about using the torrents as well.

All the classics, in glorious 1080p

Now that we have the technology to scan movies shot on film into high-definition digital formats (720p and 1080p), and we’ve already done it for some movies like CasablancaNorth by NorthwestThe Italian Job, It’s a Wonderful Life or Home Alone, wouldn’t it be great if we’d re-scan and re-master more of the older movies, some of which are about to disintegrate in Hollywood vaults?

I’ve made a shortlist of films I’d like to see in HD below, culled from my movie collection. These, along with many other movies, ought to be scanned to 1080p HD. They’re wonderful movies, each in their own way, and they shouldn’t rot in some vault, degrading to the point where they’re no longer usable. They should be seen in all the glory and detail in which they were shot.

As a matter of fact, even 1080p HD is a poor substitute for the quality which properly exposed film affords. A 35mm film cell can be scanned at a resolution of up to 20 megapixels, which means the potential resolution of any movie shot on film greatly exceeds what we know as HD (high definition) these days. I’m sure the technology will catch up at some point, but it still has some way to go.

Meanwhile, ponder this: in terms of visual quality, the boon of television during the past 60 years or so has been a veritable dark age. Most everyone other than big budget productions switched to using cameras which recorded to tape, at resolutions of 400-600 vertical lines — the equivalent of 480p. Compare that with 720p or 1080p HD, or for a real shocker, the potential 3000-3500p of a fully equivalent digital reproduction of film quality. It’s sad, really. We’ve cheated ourselves out of visual quality for the sake of convenience, and only now are we starting to regain some of the lost ground.

A couple of other things I’d like to see when it comes to the movies I’ve listed below, or rather, in general when it comes to digital reproduction of analog films: I’d love to see them made into digital, downloadable files instead of optical discs, and I’d love to see some consistently lower pricing. I don’t know how many people will pay $40-50 for a 1080p movie, but I bet a lot more people will pay $15-20 for it. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not really interested in indulgent extras, or extensive behind the scenes productions that crowd out the actual movie.

Without further delay, here’s my list of movies I’d like to see in glorious 1080p HD:

  • A Christmas Carol (1938)
  • A King in New York
  • Airport
  • Along Came Jones
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Big Brown Eyes
  • Big Business Girl
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Cafe Metropole
  • Captain Blood
  • City Lights
  • Daddy Long Legs
  • Dawn Patrol
  • Destination Tokyo
  • Dinner At Eight
  • Don Juan (1926)
  • Easter Parade
  • Father Goose
  • Follow the Fleet
  • George Washington Slept Here
  • Gold Diggers and its sequels
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips
  • Grand Hotel
  • Grass is Greener
  • Gunga Din
  • Hans Christian Andersen
  • Heidi (1937)
  • House on Haunted Hill
  • How to Steal a Million
  • I Was A Male War Bride
  • In Name Only
  • It Had To Be You
  • It Happened One Night
  • Key Largo
  • Kiss and Make Up (1934)
  • Kiss Me Kate
  • Kiss Them For Me
  • Libeled Lady
  • Love Affair
  • Love Crazy
  • Lover Come Back
  • Luxury Liner
  • Man Hunt
  • Manhattan Melodrama
  • Mary of Scotland
  • Meet Me In St. Louis
  • Midnight
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • Monsieur Verdoux
  • Monte Carlo
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
  • Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
  • Mr. Lucky
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • My Dream Is Yours
  • My Fair Lady
  • My Favorite Wife
  • My Man Godfrey
  • Night Must Fall
  • Ninotchka
  • Northern Pursuit
  • Notorious
  • Now, Voyager
  • On Borrowed Time
  • On The Avenue
  • On The Riviera
  • One Upon A Honeymoon
  • One Way Passage
  • Operation Petticoat
  • People Will Talk
  • Prince of Foxes
  • Private Number
  • Queen Christina
  • Quo Vadis
  • Rachel and the Stranger
  • Rafter Romance
  • Random Harvest
  • Reckless
  • Rendezvous
  • Rhapsody in Blue
  • Rich, Young and Pretty
  • Roman Holiday
  • Sabrina
  • Safety Last (1923)
  • Scrooge
  • Secret Garden
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Spartacus (1960)
  • Springtime in the Rockies (1942)
  • Stage Door
  • Step Lively Jeeves
  • Swing Time (1936)
  • Tell It To The Judge
  • Thank You Jeeves
  • Thank Your Lucky Stars
  • That Forsyte Woman
  • That Touch of Mink
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • The Amazing Adventure (1936)
  • The Ambassador’s Daughter
  • The Awful Truth (1937)
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
  • The Baroness and the Butler
  • The Bishop’s Wife
  • The Court Jester
  • The Doctor Takes a Wife
  • The Farmer’s Daughter
  • The Glass Bottom Boat
  • The Good Fairy
  • The Great Dictator
  • The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  • The Heavenly Body
  • The Man Who Came To Dinner
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • The Mark of Zorro (1920)
  • The Millionaire (1931)
  • The Mysterious
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • The Prince and the Pauper
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Shop Around the Corner
  • The Thin Man and all its sequels
  • The Woman in the Window
  • Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
  • Three Coins in the Fountain
  • Three Daring Daughters
  • Three Little Words
  • Three Loves Has Nancy
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Too Many Husbands
  • Topaze
  • Topper
  • Two Weeks With Love
  • Walk, Don’t Run
  • Wedding Present (1936)
  • Weekend at the Waldorf
  • When Ladies Meet
  • White Christmas
  • Wife vs. Secretary
  • You Can’t Take It With You

Star Wars and Kings Row theme songs are quite alike

When we watched Kings Row (1942) recently, I couldn’t help noticing a marked similarity between its theme song, written by Erich Korngold, and the main Star Wars (1977) theme song, written by John Williams.

I doubted I was the only one to hear it, and sure enough, a quick internet search revealed many others talking about the same thing. See Wikipedia, or this YouTube video comparing the two theme songs.

Sixty-eight years after the release of Kings Row, and 33 years after the release of Star Wars, this isn’t as big a deal as it probably was back then. In my opinion, Williams’ remaking of the Korngold theme is much better suited to its movie than Korngold’s was for its intended vehicle — and it is a re-making, not a plagiarized copy. Korngold’s theme sounds much too dramatic for a coming-of-age movie set in a turn of the century provincial American town, but it’s perfect for a futuristic sci-fi movie that was (and is) one of the biggest box office successes of all time.

Still, it’s an uncanny resemblance, isn’t it?

Images used courtesy of Amazon.

The many uses of chroma keying

What is chroma key? It is a technique for mixing two images or frames together in which a color (or a small color range) from one image is removed (or made transparent), revealing another image behind it. Still, a visual technique is better explained in visual terms, so watch this video, which explains it much better than I ever could. The technique is also called color keying, colour separation overlay, greenscreen and bluescreen.

[via Holger on FB]

The prohibition and Key Largo

key-largo-movie

In the 1948 movie “Key Largo”, starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson, and one of the phrases in the movie got me thinking. Rocco (Robinson’s character), terrified by the hurricane, commands one of his gangsters to start talking, to say anything.

screenshot-key-largo-movie

The gangster, Curly, starts talking about the prohibition. Here’s what he says:

“I bet you 2, 3 years, we get prohibition back. This time we make it stick. Bet you 2, 3 years prohibition comes back. Absolutely, yeah… The trouble was — see, before — too many guys wanted to be top dog. One mob gets to massacring another, the papers play it up big, see, so what happens… naturally, the papers play it up big, and the public get the idea prohibition’s no good, and if they can get rid of it, prohibition, I mean…”

[here we get a separate scene of Rocco being completely terrified by the power of the hurricane, then the talk turns to prohibition once more, continuing the previous line]

“… so the public votes out prohibition, that’s the end of the mobs. Next time it’ll be different, though. We learned our lesson, alright. Next time the mobs’ll get together.”

Perhaps this is why some drugs are still illegal, like marijuana. I realize the debate is much bigger than this, but still, it’s possible that some stand to lose a whole lot of money if marijuana were to be legalized, just like the mobsters lost a lot of money when alcohol was once more legally available. It’s a good theory, right?

In my opinion, marijuana is no dangerous than alcohol, so I don’t see what the big deal is. I don’t consume it, and am only concerned with the unfair scrutiny all hemp varieties get due to their association with marijuana. Hemp seeds, for example, are very nutritious, and hemp string and rope is quite useful around the house. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t grow any kind of hemp, because you’ll be automatically raided, even though you have nothing to do with marijuana at all. It’s silly.

The prohibition/drugs discussion aside, “Key Largo” is a great movie, definitely worth watching. You can get it from Amazon, or you can rent it from Netflix.

How about a real Apple TV (an Apple tablet)?

Ligia and I were watching cartoons in bed this morning, on my laptop, and I realized Apple still hasn’t capitalized on the opportunity to create a real Apple TV. Here I was, after having ejected my external drives, disconnected the laptop from its peripherals, taken it off its stand and put it on our bed, when all of this could be handled very simply with a larger iPod — a combination iPod/Apple TV/Apple Cinema Display.

Try as I might, I just can’t watch movies or video content on my iPod. The screen is too small, even though I have an iPod touch. It has no speakers, so I have to use headphones. Clearly, Apple has the technological know-how to put together a really nice Apple TV that’s not yet another box tethered to a TV in the living room, but a display with integrated speakers and the circuitry that allows it to get on my network and access media from various drives, or to play the media I sync to it through iTunes, or to download media from the Internet. And yet, it’s content to charge people for small fry (iPods, hamstrung Apple TVs, etc.) when it comes to personal entertainment devices.

Just think, with a nice LED screen of about 13-17 inches, a touch screen, plenty of onboard storage, a good battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and speakers, they could have an amazing device that I could take with me wherever I decide to sit in the house or in the yard. I could take it in bed and watch movies without draining my already tired laptop battery, I could take it outside on the patio at night to watch stuff there, etc.

Apple already has all of this technology. Why don’t they put it together?

They have the LED displays already, in their laptops and in their Cinema line.

led-cinema-display

They have the touch screen capabilities, from the iPod and iPhone.

ipod-touch

They have the media playback capabilities and other circuitry from the Apple TV.

Apple TV

They have the amazing batteries from the MacBook Pro line.

new-apple-batteries

The speakers are also from the MacBook Pro line, and they’re some of the best small speakers on the market, if not the best.

macbook-pro-speakers

People talk about an iTablet, but I’m not really sold on the idea. Yes, if you put all of these components together, you could have an iTablet, but what I want is a larger iPod, or rather a usable, untethered Apple TV with a nice, built-in display and decent battery life. It could look something like this (and no, this isn’t a rendering, it’s a screenshot from Apple’s own website).

itv

Take away the stand, and imagine a nice iPod-like bezel around it, so you can grab it in your hands and hold it. Perhaps it could have some sort of leg that folds out to let it stand on its own, too. This is what I’m looking for. An iPod I can actually watch, anywhere.

Images used courtesy of Apple.

Gotta give them something to do

It’s easy to decry TV, movies and sports as nothing more than a time suck, as a constant push toward looser morals and a consumer culture, but they also provide a benefit that’s not often discussed — that of giving people something acceptable to do with their time. Among other things, they redirect energy that would be spent on real life behaviors into vicarious behaviors, and in some ways, that’s a good thing in today’s world.

You look back through recent history, and you’ll see that as societies became more civilized, people distanced themselves from nature and segmented their existence not only in terms of time but also in terms of space. When economies were based solely (or mostly) on agriculture and crafts, people had plenty to do all day long. Life and work followed a natural cycle, and they intermingled. (You see some of that these days with telecommuting.) People had homes, and they had land, and they worked on that land and around their homes all day long. They put in long hours during the spring, summer and autumn, and relaxed during winter, at home with their families. Nowadays, very few people still live on that cycle. Most people have office jobs and live in apartment buildings, particularly in the larger cities where the costs of owning a home are prohibitive. When they get home at night, what’s there to do? Little, really. When you have an apartment, what are you going to do? Stare at the walls? Vacuum the floors? Re-organize your sock drawers? I suppose that’s how the need for mass entertainment developed, first with sports, then movies, then TV. When you have (roughly) five hours of free time per day, you’ve got to spend it somehow, so why not become a sports fan, or why not watch movies or TV?

As one follows the progress of their favorite sports team or TV show, they live in that world, through those characters or stars, and experience the highs and lows of that microcosm. Some would say that’s a form of population control, of dumbing down the population, of occupying their time with nonsense so they don’t wake up and start something. In some ways, it is, but it’s also needed. What would people do with the energy and time they spend on sports and TV if those outlets didn’t exist? Some would spend it in positive ways — with their families, on books, arts, hobbies, games, newspapers, trips and the like — and yet others (and this is a number that can’t be quantified) would spend it in negative ways — and the variety of those ways is something that would boggle the mind. For that group of people, the fact that they spend their time in front of the TV or in the stands, cheering for their sports teams, is undoubtedly a good thing.

So, beside the fact that there are very real benefits to TV networks and advertisers as more people tune in to see TV shows and sports matches, or to movie studios as more people go to see their latest creation, or to sports teams when fans fill their stadiums, there are arguable benefits to be gained for society in general as more people tune out the outside world and turn on their TVs. The issue is clearly more complicated than that, and I’m oversimplifying things, but I wanted to point out this particular aspect. It’s but one view among many that can be taken when you talk about this subject. The more I think of this, the more I realize its complexity can’t possibly be explained in a single post, so don’t expect an overarching conclusion here — just an observation.

Alice in Wonderland official trailer (2010)

Tim Burton’s version of “Alice in Wonderland” is out (the official version, that is). Guess what role Johnny Depp is playing?

alice-in-wonderland-trailer
Alice in Wonderland Official Movie Trailer in HD

Not to be nitpicky, but in the trailer, Alice’s hair is curly before falling through the hole, straight as she’s falling, and curly again when she finds herself on the floor at the bottom. And while she’s falling, her hair drapes downward, which doesn’t make sense. It should be blowing upward, right? Have a look at this frame from the trailer to see what I mean. Looks like they forgot to use some fans when they filmed those sequences, to simulate the force of the air blowing past her during the fall.

alice-falling

The role of the Mad Hatter has naturally been made more prominent since Johnny Depp plays it. It’ll be interesting to see how the story changes to accommodate that.

mad-hatter

Can’t wait to see this movie.

I like "The Saint"

It got panned by the critics. Val Kilmer’s acting was indulgent at times. It was somewhat cliché. What was up with those knee-high socks that Elizabeth Shue’s character wore throughout the movie? Those are some of the things that come to mind when I think of “The Saint” (1997). But it struck a chord with me, from the first time I saw it, and I like it even after all these years.

I think it evokes the feel of that time in Eastern Europe very well. I visited Romania in December 1998, for the first time since I’d left in 1991. The movie and the impressions from my trip match. It was cold, snowy, in many ways dreary, there was poverty all around, but still somehow enchanting, inspiring, in a way that made you feel you could do almost anything, as if the slate had been wiped clean and people were free to start things over.

moscow-scene-1

moscow-scene-2

moscow-scene-3

Simon Templar, the character played by Val Kilmer in the movie, has a long heritage that started in books in 1928. The character itself has been played in movies and on TV by several other actors, Roger Moore being one of the more notable ones. I remember watching Moore in the Saint series as a child growing up in Romania. The films were gripping and I loved seeing a modern-day Robin Hood escape from dangerous situations, just as I enjoyed seeing Kilmer’s character escape from similar situations in this latest installment.

Given the character’s long history, Kilmer had some big shoes to fill in this movie. For example, I thought there were too many close-ups of him. Perhaps the director was trying to establish character, and the close-ups were meant to give us an insight into what S.T. was thinking, but at times, I could see the actor hamming it up behind a thinner-than-usual mask. Still, I always thought Kilmer was charismatic and I don’t begrudge him the less than stellar acting here. Every actor goes through a ham stage in his or her career — most notably of all, the famous John Barrymore, who quite possibly illustrated the very phrase in some of his later film roles.

The film’s tech was amazing for its time. Simon Templar’s phone in the movie — that Nokia phone was something else. It blew me away. I think it could do everything modern phones could do — at slower speeds, naturally — except play movies. I learned it was a Nokia 9000 Communicator, thanks to the Saint.org website. And to think, all of that technology was available in 1997! Nokia was very happy about the phone’s appearance in the movie and even issued a press release about it that same year.

nokia-9000-communicator

nokia-9000-communicator-in-movie

All in all, “The Saint” is one of a handful of movies in my library that I’ve watched multiple times, and will probably watch again. I like it.