Commentary

February 21, 2014

Fly Over: ‘The Lady Vanishes’, and the new XBox

The-Lady-Vanishes

On DVD:

‘The Lady Vanishes’

Recently, 100 classic horror/thriller movies fell into my possession (belated Merry Christmas gifts), and among said collection are quite a few created by Sir Alfred Hitchcock, a filmmaker that left a pretty big mark on the history of cinema. So naturally, of these 100 films I’ve watched so far, the only one that was legitimately good was created by Hitchcock, 1938’s “The Lady Vanishes.” For a film that is 76 years old, it holds up quite well … mostly.
Taking place almost entirely on a train headed to London from the fictitious country of Bandrika, “The Lady Vanishes” follows Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood), a young woman on her way to marry a wealthy but bland businessman. On the way, she befriends an elderly woman named Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), a kind music teacher. Things turn strange when Iris awakens to find that not only is Froy nowhere in sight, but none of the passengers believe such a woman existed in the first place. Teaming with an impolite musicologist, Iris begins searching for a woman she may have imagined.
One of the things that really stuck out to me about “The Lady Vanishes” is the build-up. Froy doesn’t go missing right at the get-go, and much of the introductory scenes are about showing the viewer the personalities of the many different passengers aboard the train and how they interact with each other. The progression in which the mystery unravels was also paced well, with details being released bit by bit. Still, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious film critic, I pretty much figured out what was going on not too long after Froy goes missing. What makes up for that, however, is trying to figure out the “why,” and even if I was a bit disappointed in that reveal as well (I cocked an eyebrow at it, if that means anything), the story is tied pretty neatly together and gets more and more intense as it goes on.
The acting is what one should expect in a Hitchcock film. Margaret Lockwood is a very likable protagonist who doesn’t back down (how many times in these old films has the woman gotten involved in a brawl?), and Michael Redgrave makes for a good male counterpart to her — the two exchange some pretty funny banter throughout the movie.
Dame May Whitty does a good job as someone the viewer would want to be found without being an absolute saint. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, though the two that stand out are Basil Redford and Naunton Wayne as two cricket-obsessed English gentlemen. Until the climax these two really have nothing to contribute to the story (they literally go out of their way to avoid getting involved), but their dry awkwardness was entertaining in a way. They also served as anchors for the audience while the protagonists walked around confused.
All right, while this movie may hold up today in its plot and acting, the opening shot of a hotel in Bandrika (it annoys me that this place was made up, by the way) is clearly, and I mean clearly, a model. In no way shape or form can a modern movie audience look at this intro and not snicker a little bit. At least the train the film is set on actually appears to be real.
I recommend “The Lady Vanishes” to any fans of Alfred Hitchcock or thrillers in general that haven’t already seen it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 97 more films to watch.

XBox-One

In stores:

‘Xbox One’

Arriving eight years after the “Xbox 360,” the Xbox One stakes a bold claim as being the command center of your living room. Its name says it all — the “One” box on which to view all living room entertainment, from gaming, live TV, online video streaming or Skyping.
A big part of the “all-in-one” entertainment console is the addition of the Kinetic, the motion sensor included with every Xbox One and a big reason why the “One” cost $499, a full $100 more than the Sony PlayStation 4.
Even though Kinetic isn’t essential to functionality, you’re still left paying the $100 extra for the Kinetic, which comes in the box. The Kinetic is a waste of time in my opinion. The only good use is the voice commands for Netflix. Other than that, they don’t have many good games that support the Kinetic.
The Xbox One is bulky and not as sleek as the PlayStation 4. Some have described it as an old-school VCR, which I agree. One thing that carried over from the Xbox 260 is the external power brick. It’s not really an eyesore, but it is supposed to be a next-generation console, and we still have to use a power brick.
Setting up the Xbox One requires connecting to the Internet for a Day One patch that unlocks the console’s functionality.
The new system comes with more than four games. If you want to go on a zombie killing spree, there’s Dead Rising 3. If you want to relive Roman history and fight in the coliseum, there’s Ryse The Son of Rome. Overall there is a game for everyone’s taste. And that’s just the beginning of what the Xbox One has in store for gaming this year.
Achievements are back with the Xbox One and presented with their own app in the system. Each achievement can be viewed in full-screen mode, and some achievements will actually record gameplay the moment they are unlocked.
The downfall of the Xbox One is that it has no backward compatibility with the Xbox 360 discs. Hopefully in the future Microsoft will make it a feature to buy and download classic games from Xbox 360.
The Xbox One’s new feature is called “snap,” which allows you to snap an app to a third of the screen. It’s a great idea on paper, but in reality it needs a lot of work. Not every app you own will be able to snap. Things can get complicated quickly, especially if you hit the Home button during a snap session. Both apps will then sink into the Home window at which point you might need to unsnap everything to make sense of it all.
The Xbox One dashboard will take some getting used to. With every new piece of software the user begins to understand how things work. With this new dashboard, though, the learning process will take longer than expected.
The Xbox One wants to take control of your living room, and it tries to do that with Live TV integration. I haven’t tried this feature, but from reviews, it seems like a wasted feature. I expect to see some updates with the Live TV integration in the future, but until that happens, I suggest you leave the One to being a game console.
Overall, the Xbox One is a good console but it needs a lot of tweaking. If you have $500 to spare, then get one. Otherwise, wait until Microsoft lowers the price. Plus they’re still making Xbox 360 games until the end of 2014 so that leaves you with enough time to save up and buy one.




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