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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 97 00:06:17 -0800
Subject: Computer/Film Reviews
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (House of Unruly Fish)
Forwarded-by: Jesse Mundis <jesse@Internex.NET>
Four of the biggest films of 1996 -- Twister, Eraser, Mission
Impossible and Independence Day -- have one thing in common besides
box-office success: in each film, portable computers played a prominent
role. We decided to put the portable computers in these flims to the test
and asnwer once and for all the question, "Hey, if I happen to find myself
in a big-budget Hollywood movie, which portable computer will give me the
Twister featured a Silicon Graphics laptop, which is intesting since
Silicon Graphics doens't make laptops. Nevertheless, a label reading
"Silicon Graphics" was placed conspicuously on the computer, because you
just never know when you might forget the brand name of your computer.
Overall, this computer performed more than adequately. For one thing, it
was robust. While seemingly everything else in the movie was sucked into
the tornado, the Silicon Graphics laptop was unharmed. This is incredible
when you think about it. Houses, cows and even an 18-wheeler were blown away
by tornadoes, but this computer remained undamaged, even when it was used
at one point as an umbrella.
Aside from personal bad-weather protection, another important
feature of the Silicon Graphics laptop was its ability not to self-destruct
due to the complete inanity of the script. My sources tell me that many
lesser computers were unable to make it through the first third of the film
without a system error.
One computer actually exploded in the first 20 mintues after a
particularly silly scene involving the fiancee of Bill Paxton's character.
But not the Silicon Graphics laptop. It kept on performing at a high level.
If the big-budget film you're in happens to have a script with all the
subtlety of a bad Baywatch episode, then the Silicon Graphics laptop is
definitely the computer for you, even if it doesn't exist.
Eraser also featured a portable computer. Unfortunately, I do not
know which portable computer it was. Neither does anyone at Warner Brothers,
including Steve in Product Placement, who informed me, "I'm sorry, this
office cannot comment on that."
It really doesn't matter, though, because the Unknown Laptop is a
real disappointment. About all that can be said in its favor is that it
didn't blow up. Admittedly, that's an accomplishment. After all, practically
everything else in the movie exploded, sometimes more than once. If you do
find yourself in a flick with lots of exploding buildings and houses, you
might want to find out what computer this one is. Just don't ask Steve in
Product Placement, because he can't comment.
Where the Unknown Laptop comes up really short is in performance.
For example, early in the film Vanessa William's character copies important
files onto a CD-ROM(!). When she arrives home and attempts to open the files
with her laptop, she finds that the CD-ROM will not run, thus making the
computer completely useless for the film. Because of this defect, Williams
and Arnold Schwarzenegger must break into CIA headquarters and open the
classified files from within the high-security building.
Admittedly, this may be more of a software problem than a hardware
problem. Microsoft is now working on a plug-in for Windows 95 that will
allow users to open classified documents stolen from the CIA, but the
original release date was set for November 1995. After countless delays,
Microsoft now refuses to set a new date for the release. The truth is that
it might be several years before an operating system is available that will
reliably open classified documents stolen from the CIA.
Furthermore, Herbert Naylor, an imaginary spokesman for Microsoft,
claims that this defect is really not a problem. "The movie," he rightly
says, "was starting to drag at that point, and if not for the computer
failing, the screenwriters might never have come up with a reason for the
characters to break into the CIA." This is a salient point, and one the
serious computer user must consider. Among the computers reviewed here, the
Unkonwn Laptop was clearly the best at moving the plot along.
One of the stars of Mission Impossible was a Macintosh PowerBook
540C. I know this because I called Apple Computer, and they were positively
giddy to tell me about all the Apple computers used in films this summer.
They'd probably still be talking to me right now, if I hadn't come up with
an excuse to end the conversation.
In this film, the Macintosh advantage is clear. Whereas the Unknown
Laptop was unable to open classified files, Tom Cruise's PowerBook did not
have the same problem. It easily handled classified information.
Nevertheless, the PowerBook 540C did display some flaws. For example, many
of the most popular lists of classified information take several months
longer to be released for the Macintosh platform, but the PowerBook 540C's
superior ability in opening classified files makes it well worth the wait.
One can only hope this will persuade developers to release more lists of
classified information for the Macintosh.
Another interesting feature of this PowerBook is its superior acting
ability. For example, in several scenes the PowerBook managed to outact
Cruise. True, this is not that difficult an accomplishment. (In one scene,
the leg of a table in the corner of the screen outacted Cruise for several
seconds). Nevertheless, it is always impressive when a portable computer
manges to outperform the lead actor.
You may have mixed feelings about this. If you're the type of actor
who likes to be surrounded by superior actors in the hopes that this will
make the movie that much more successful, then the PowerBook 540C is for
you. However, if you're at all worried about being upstaged, you might want
to consider another model.
Independence Day (or: How I Saved the World From Destruction With
a PowerBook) featured a Macintosh PowerBook 5300. This movie is where the
Macintosh really shines. While the other computers performed adequately in
their films, no other portable computer was able to save the world from
alien desruction. Therefore, the PowerBook 5300 is our selection as the best
portable computer of the group.
Remember the old days when connecting to alien spaceships by modem
took hours of confusing configuration, and was sometimes impossible because
you lacked the proper drivers? With the PowerBook 5300, that era has come
to an end. Everything on it is preinstalled. Just point and click, and you
are all set. Thanks to Apple's new technology, you can even use your modem
to play Doom against alien lifeforms.
Equally impressive is the fact that Apple seems to have eliminated
the problem of screen freezes. Not once in the entire film did the computer
freeze, forcing Jeff Goldblum to reboot. For me, this was even more
unbelievable than the concept of aliens rom another planet coming down to
Earth and trying to destroy the human race.
If Goldblum had had to use my Macintosh, instead, the scene near
the end in which he and Will Smith fly to the alien mothership to upload a
computer virus may have turned out entirely different:
GOLDBLUM: Okay, all we have to do is wait for it to upload the virus
into the alien mothership. Oh, damn! It's stopped! The screen froze!
SMITH: Don't be giving me none of that freeze stuff! I told you we
should have used a PC!
GOLDBLUM: It'll be okay. We just have to restart the computer.
SMITH: We got three minutes.
GOLDBLUM: Three minutes! I can't restart a Mac in three minutes!
Aaaargh! We're all gonna die!
At this point, the human race would have been destroyed, the movie
would have ended, and audiences across the nation wouldn't have been as
pleased. But the PowerBook 5300 in Independence Day saved the day, proving
that Apple has again become a serious player. If you find yourself in a
big-budget film in which the existence of the human race is in your hands,
you have no choice but to buy the PowerBook 5300.
By Joe Lavin
© 1997 Peter Langston