Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2008

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit

Written by: (Screenplay) Robert Fyvolent, Mark Brinker, & Allison Burnett / (Story) Robert Fyvolent & Mark Brinker

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

Key Cast Members:

  • Jennifer Marsh: Diane Lane
  • Detective Eric Box: Billy Burke
  • Griffin Dowd: Colin Hanks
  • Owen Reilly: Joseph Cross
  • Rating: 1 out of 10

    Kill With Me

    WARNING: What has been seen cannot be unseen, and may scar you for LIFE!

    Overview: One of the key themes in cyberpunk is how technology affects humanity, whether for better or for worse. Untraceable opted to show the for worse part with a tech-savvy psycho who creates the website (it works for now, but don’t expect much there). The website streams live video of people being tortured and killed by various means, with the victim dying faster as more people watch. FBI cybercrime agent Jennifer Marsh is the one who needs to stop the killer site before the killings get too gruesome.

    This is one movie that’s not for cyberpunk fans, unless they are also Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans as well. Despite the cyber message the movie tries to deliver, the lack of other cyberpunk themes makes this one movie that cyberpunk fans may want to steer clear of.


    The Story: FBI agent Jennifer Marsh (Lane) works as part of the cybercrimes division, mostly at night because she’s a widow with a daughter. She has enough tech skills to track down and solve common ID fraud cases, maybe some other cybercrimes that the FBI deals with. She gets a tip for the site, and when she logs in she sees a dead kitten on a live video stream. Her team tries to shut the site down, but the person behind the site has advanced tech skills that makes his site virtually untraceable. Before long, the site shows a man being pumped with anticoagulants which causes him to bleed to death. The more people who visit the site, the more anticoagulant is pumped into him to make him bleed more. Marsh and company now need to find who is behind the site, hopefully before more people die on it. The problem she has is the publicity and schadenfreude the site generates, making it increasingly popular.


    Schaden-whatthefuck? Schadenfreude - (German, noun) Enjoyment derived from the suffering or misfortune of others. You must have experienced schadenfreude many times in your life, often starting at a very young age; Taking a toy away from another toddler and making him/her cry, watching a baddie get his ass kicked by the hero, LOLs while watching The Three Stooges slap each other around. These are but some small examples of schadenfreude that we have experienced. In the Internet age, that concept has become wide spread and even viral as noticed on YouTube. But then, America’s Funniest Home Videos has been doing it since 1989.

    Unfortunately, schadenfreude also takes on darker tones as Untraceable shows. The Internet can take a personal tragedy and make it viral not only for the people who videoed the event, but for whatever site/station that also broadcasts it. This is the driving motivation behind’s mastermind, exposing humanity’s dark schadenfreude while taking personal revenge on those who benefited from his father’s suicide.

    Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane)

    Hello, Jennifer. Look out the front window, under that street light. That’s where my father fell over the railing. Some websites show the whole thing in slow motion because it’s just so much better that way. One archives it in a section called “whoa.” That’s it, just “whoa.”
    You and the people you work with you let people say and do almost anything they want. It doesn’t matter who it hurts.

    A One-Star Wonder? The main problem, other than being geared for the police-procedure crime-solver types, is the lack of cyberpunk themes. The negative impact of technology is obviously there, along with the undertones of ubiquitous Internet access shown with all the handhelds and cellphones shown being used. The rest, not so much. And those who prefer the crime-solving may feel like they’ve solved this crime before the agents do, and not because we get to see the perpetrator select his victims.


    Conclusion: While the message about our dark nature on the Internet is strong, the lack of cyberpunk themes will be a turn off of most. Recommended ONLY for Law & Order/CSI/NCIS fans, and even then with some reservations.

    Untraceable finish

    This post has been filed under 1 Star Movies, It's Not Cyberpunk! Mkay? by Mr. Roboto.

    Source: Just turn over any rock… OK, start with Wired, ZDNet, and The Examiner.

    RIP Floppy Disk

    Earlier today (26-Apr-2010) Sony announced that they will stop selling the 1.44MB, 3.5″ floppy disk that have been a mainstay in computers since 1981.

    Another nail in the coffin. In what has to be an expected call, Sony announced that sales of the formerly ubiquitous floppy disks will stop in March 2011, save for possible niche markets. The move comes as Japan’s demand for the magnetic media has dropped from a high of 47 million in 2000 to last year’s 8.5 million.

    Sony is apparently the last manufacturer to discontinue the magnetic 3.5″ drive (but will still make and sell the 3.5″ magneto-optical disks), even as computer makers stopped installing floppy drives as early as 1998. When the 3.5″ format replaced their bigger 5.25″ brothers, it was mostly seen as an expected advancement in technology even as IT managers pulled out most of their hair to make changeover. Today’s rewritable DVDs (RW Blu-Rays out yet?) and USB flash drives dwarf the floppy’s puny 1.44MB with gigabytes of storage, and with the possibility of solid-state drives being standard on PCs in the future, it’s time to retire the magnetic floppy media.

    Better get what files you can from your floppies before you become a victim of DATA ROT!


    Beware of DATA ROT!

    Source: CBS News 60 Minutes.

    Watch CBS News Videos Online

    OK, the sub-headline may be more dramatic than necessary, but anyone familiar with technology can tell you why they are concerned about data rot, and why you should be concerned too.

    I was able to catch the above CBS news piece one rainy Sunday morning over a year ago. I’ve been debating on whether to report on it here since then, but with Sony’s announcement it now seems more relevant.

    Data Rot: a definition.

    (From Wikipedia) Bit rot, also known as bit decay, data rot, or data decay, is a colloquial computing term used either to describe gradual decay of storage media or to facetiously describe the spontaneous degradation of a software program over time. The latter use of the term implies that software can literally wear out or rust like a physical tool. More commonly, bit rot refers to the decay of physical storage media.

    “Data Rot” as defined above technically refers to computer technology, but the 60 Minutes piece stretches the term to include non-computer technologies such as cameras and film and tape recorders. Given that computers are part of virtually everything these days, the analogy seems quite apt. Magnetic tapes, photographs, books, records, and even paper are prone to thermal and chemical reactions that render them useless. But they can also be made unusable by advances in technology itself, as anyone who had an 8-track can testify to. Maybe we can modify the Wikipedia definition above to something a bit more reflective of what CBS is trying to convey. A proposed definition:

    Data Rot (n):
    1) The physical destruction of a medium due to physical, chemical, thermal, etc. forces that render the medium unusable or unreadable.
    2) The rendering of media being unsupported due to changes in technologies.

    Floppy tombstone

    Whoever came up with “etched in stone” must have never heard of weathering.

    You must have seen data rot in action already. If you live in the US, you must know about the changeover from analog television signals to digital “high-definition.” Most everyone had to buy high-def TVs, or converters for older analog sets. That could be considered a form of data rot. How about movies? Remember VHS, or Beta? What about regular DVDs as opposed to Blu-Rays? Or do you just use Netflix online? Do you still have a CD collection, or have they been ripped to MP3s?

    Preventing the inevitable. It can’t be too hard to imagine what kind of damage data rot can do. Important, valuable, and/or historical data could be lost forever leaving critical gaps in our collective conscious. One way of preventing data rot is to keep up with the technology; Upgrading software and systems as needed, and converting to the most common and supported formats. It may not cure or even prevent all data rot, but it is better than having to try to salvage unsupported data.

    This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.

    April 13, 2010


    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2009

    Directed by: Ernie Barbarash

    Written by: Michael Hurst

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Luke Gibson: Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Virgil Kirkhill: Val Kilmer
  • Hal: Michael Ironside
  • Punk Red: Tatiana Maslany
  • Punk Blue: Juan Riedinger
  • Keyboard: Chad Krowchuk
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

    Overview: I heard about this movie from the Columbia House DVD club, then bought it after reading the description. After doing some research about it and learning about it being released direct to home video, I got to watch it… and found out why it went direct to video. To take some of the best cyberpunk themes, add some major star-power, then squander it on what would have worked better as a television pilot episode only shows that cyberpunk still has Hollywood seeing $$$ despite recent failures like Repo Men.


    The Story:

    Hardwired Cityscape at Night

    Just a few years from now, corporations control and observe everything.

    Luke Gibson (Gooding) and his pregnant wife get involved in a car accident. She dies on the scene, and he is hospitalized with brain damage (amnesia) and no insurance. The Hope Corporation finances his brain operation, which involves a Psi-Comp implant on his visual lobe. He soon starts having hallucinations, which are commercials that only he can see and hear. But hackers manage to tap into the implant and give him messages which lead him to Keyboard, a former Hope employee turned hacker, who has information that can stop The Hope Corporation’s plans for the implants.

    Psi-Comp Implant

    Cyberpunk themes… they got ‘em. There’s little question about this being cyberpunk; It’s practically dripping with cy-punk themes throughout. The Psi-Comp implants can be used to control people, either with persistent commercials or a painful “fail-safe” that can blow your head off, depending on how Hope Co. feels about your finding out about the truth about them. The hackers try to free Luke from Hope’s control over him by using the implant themselves. Hope Co’s. cameras everywhere watching most everything that goes on. There’s even holographic projections of corporate brands above and on cityscapes and landmarks, owing to how corporations had bail out governments due to their failed bailouts. About the only thing missing would be the dystopic atmosphere, though through sound bytes from televisions indicate that the dystopia is financial.


    So what could (or did) possibly go wrong? With Hardwired’s abundance of cy-punk themes, it might be hard to imagine that this could not be the next Blade Runner. That might be the big problem: It’s trying to be the next Blade Runner. Not that aspiring to be such a classic is a bad thing, it’s just most cyberpunk movies lately are trying to be Blade Runner, and they try so hard that they ultimately fail to be even a good movie. Let’s try to make a good movie first, then you can try being Blade Runner. Best way to start is to actually do something with those themes. It’s obvious the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all. Maybe they should hang out here for a while…

    Hardwire Cyberpunks

    Are you certain that the one on the left is Punk Blue and not Punk Green?

    Another problem is more “technical,” the operation scene when Luke gets the implant. Inside the operating room, Luke is sitting upright, but a scene through a security cam (assumed to be in the same O.R.) shows him lying down, face up, even though the doctor just finished drilling into the back of Luke’s neck. It’s not like every movie is one-hundred percent accurate, but such noticeable goofs early on can make the rest of the film less believable. Also, the hackers use the chip to send Luke information a la “augmented reality.” His eyes were not replaced with holographic projectors, so we should not be able to see the transmitted data in front of his face. Seeing that stuff as Luke sees it, first-person like, would have worked better.


    Conclusion: It’s hard to put Hardwired down because it has a great idea, but some bad implementations may have doomed it to direct-to-video hell and lack of reviews. The only other review called it “cheesy, seriously cheesy.” Plus, the ending practically begs “please let us become a franchise,” though it might serve better as a pilot for some futuristic TV series. Maybe.

    So much potential…

    Virgil Kirkhill (Val Kilmer)

    It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, Man-machine Interface, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by Mr. Roboto.

    April 5, 2010

    Repo! The Genetic Opera

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2008

    Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman

    Written by: Darren Smith & Terrance Zdunich

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

    Key Cast Members:

  • Shilo Wallace: Alexa Vega
  • Nathan / Repo Man: Anthony Stewart Head
  • Rotti Largo: Paul Sorvino
  • Blind Mag: Sarah Brightman
  • Amber Sweet: Paris Hilton
  • Luigi Largo: Bill Moseley
  • Pavi Largo: Nivek Ogre
  • Graverobber: Terrance Zdunich
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

    Overview: I was hoping to see this movie before seeing Repo Men so I could at least see how close to each other they were. While there are some minor similarities (primarily a megacorp, their organ financing, and the use of repo men) the visuals, story-lines, and this being an opera make the two movies vastly different. While Repo Men’s visuals draws more from Blade Runner, Repo! is definitely goth with frequent scenes involving corpses and/or graveyards.

    Repo! city

    The Story: Geneco becomes the top company when an epidemic of unexplained organ failures sweep the planet. They manage to make organ transplants affordable, but they also manage to get a law passed that allows the organs to be repossessed. Another product Genco makes is Zydrate, a highly addictive pain killer often used by surgery addicts. Geneco is the only legalized source of Zydrate, but a black market exists where grave robbers extract the drug from the brains of corpses.


    The current head of Geneco, Rotti Largo (Sorvino), is terminally ill and plans to name his successor at “The Genetic Opera” when popular singer Blind Mag also plans to make her final performance. His three children, the violent Luigi (Mosley), the mask wearing Pavi (Skinny Puppy’s Ogre, FTW), and surgery-and-Zydrate addicted Amber Sweet (Hilton) hope to inherit daddy’s company, but he is disappointed with his kids and has another person in mind: Shilo Wallace.

    Pavi Largo (Nivek Ogre)

    Pavi (Ogre) gets his game face on. Well, he gets someone’s face on.

    Shilo (Vega) is the daughter of Nathan (Head), who is not only trying to find a cure for the blood disease that Shilo inherited from her mother, but is also Geneco’s repo man. He keeps her locked in her room, fearing she might die from the disease while he goes out for repossessions. Shilo sneaks out anyway and in her nightly journeys she meets a grave robber (Zdunich) who introduces her to the Zydrate underground and reveals that Blind Mag, Shilo’s favorite singer, is going to lose her eyes because she will no longer be working with Geneco.


    A tangled web. With several different story lines going on at once, it may be hard to follow them with all the singing. They may seem unrelated to each other at first, but thanks to comic-styled flashbacks they show how they are connected to Nathan’s dead wife and the upcoming Genetic Opera.

    Speaking of the songs, it’s been reported that there were some 65-75 songs made for the film. Not all of them have been used, but do appear on the various soundtracks (memo to self: find the soundtracks.). Most of them are short, only a minute or two, but often involve at least two cast members singing together with different lyrics. This may add to the confusion of following the stories, but not too much to follow if you pay attention.


    Blade Runner or Count Dracula? The distant city scene above may make one think of Blade Runner’s future Los Angeles, but the closer-in scenes is very much goth inspired. The Wallace house could very well be a haunted house (just needs some more cobwebs) while Shilo frequents a graveyard where her mother’s tomb is (side note: Shilo also collects insects). People are often dressed like they’re going to a funeral or an S&M club. There’s an area called “Sanitarium Square,” where a festival is happening before the Opera, that has brightly lit tents amid the darker streets. Not quite the cyberpunk visuals I was expecting, but does make the dark atmosphere… darker.


    Conclusion: To be honest, Repo! wasn’t quite what I expected. It felt more goth than actual cyberpunk, so much so that I’m tempted to tag this as “not cyberpunk.” Then again, with goth style being closely related to cyberpunk lately it can almost be expected. In this case, it helped rather than hurt, as it made the operatic aspects more intense. Repo! is a bit of a bloody mind bender, but certainly worth watching… and listening to.

    This post has been filed under Horror, Dystopic Future Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009, Movie by Mr. Roboto.

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