February 22, 2017

Netflix Philippines Is Offering Another One-Month Free Trial For Subscribers Who Defaulted On The First Trial

I was among those who first signed up with Netflix when the video-streaming company started offering their services in the Philippines last year. The main reason I joined way back then was because they offered a one-month free trial for new subscribers. Their monthly fee back then was $10 a month. I took advantage of the free trial for new subscribers with the plan of renewing my subscription when the trial expires.

However, when I signed up, I was disappointed with the dearth of movies and shows in their collection. The collection is very limited. There were tons of movies and shows that were available for American subscribers that were not available for subscribers in the Philippines.

I only watched a few movies and series from their service. My free trial period expired without much fanfare. I decided not to continue with my subscription since I didn't see any improvements in their collection.

Fast forward to today (several months later), I received an email from Netflix informing me that they are offering another free trial period for folks like me who defaulted on the first trial. I jumped on the opportunity of course. Signing in, I sighed with relief upon seeing the much-improved inventory of movies, documentaries, and television series. It looks like I might actually keep my subscription this time when the trial period expires.

Good job Netflix. If you want to take advantage of the new free trial, check out your inbox. I assume that Netflix only sends emails to those who are eligible for the new offer.

February 19, 2017

The Cutlass In After Earth Is Probably The Most Dull-Witted Weapon In The History Of Sci-Fi

M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth has a rating of 11% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's all you need to know. It's bad. Really bad. Alynda Wheat of People Magazine summed it up well:"The dialogue is as wooden as the acting, and the plot is just silly. Truly, the only thing the film has going for it are some occasionally cool special effects."

After Earth has tons of silly stuff. I'll forgive them all except for the stupid cutlass. Do they really want me to believe that 1,000 years after the 21st century, man's best defense against gigantic aliens is a freaking cutlass? Yeah, yeah, the weapon has blades on both ends of the handle. That's cool but the fact remains that you have got to be extra stupid to use it as your main weapon against a 20-foot alien monster.

After Earth is devoid of guns. Guns would have been much more effective against the alien monsters. If you watch the movie, the alien monsters actually shoot some kind of bullets from their mouths. That means they can also attack at a distance. And what weapons do the humans have? Cutlasses. Freaking cutlasses. Weapons that you can only use at close quarters.
According to the makers of After Earth: "The cutlass is a Ranger's greatest weapon; an extension of the strength that comes from within. The lightweight, handheld weapon is both versatile and elegant, using hundreds of metal fibers to form numerous weapon configurations from both ends of the handle. Used in attack, self-defense and survival conditions, the Cutlass blends seamlessly into a Ranger's biosuit and can be activated with quick finger inputs on the handle. The C-40 combat model has a total of 22 configurations, including short blade, spear, long, blade, dagger and more."

In short, it's just a giant Swiss Army Knife. A pistol from World War II Germany would have been more effective against the alien monsters.

February 12, 2017

Cinema Sins in Hacksaw Ridge

I finally got to see Mel Gibson’s World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge. Overall, I think it’s a great piece of filmmaking. Gibson’s direction is on point. The cinematography is fantastic. The acting is good. Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Rebecca Griffiths, and Hugo Weaving all played their parts well. Even Vince Vaughn, that guy from The Wedding Crashers, did a nice job as a drill sergeant. Hacksaw Ridge is without a doubt one of Gibson’s best films. It’s one of those films that you wouldn’t mind seeing for the second or third time around. It has drama. It has action. It even has bits of well-done comedy.

However, there are scenes in the film that make you scratch your head. Did those soldiers really think that that is a good idea? Launching yourself in the air to kick a grenade back at the enemy. Really? Below are some of the scenes in the film that I found to be logically flawed. These are just the ones that I can remember. I’m sure there are more senseless bits in the film that have escaped my memory.

1. The attack on Hacksaw Ridge
So there’s this really high cliff. Draped over a portion of the cliff wall is a net of ropes. In the movie, this net is what the soldiers use to climb over the cliff and attack the Japanese soldiers camped above. What I found to be mind-boggling about the net is why didn’t the Japanese soldiers cut it down? Why did they let it just hang there when it’s the only way for the American troops to scale the cliff. It’s not that it’s impossible to destroy the net. If you watch the movie until the end, you can see that it wouldn’t have been that hard to destroy the net. Either the Japanese are too stupid or the net is made of indestructible ropes that the Japanese wouldn’t even bother destroying it.

2. Grenade volleyball
There are several scenes in the film wherein the American and Japanese troops play grenade volleyball. A Jap throws a grenade and a soldier from the other side picks it up and throws it back. These are of course possible and no doubt have been done in real wars. But the scene where Desmond Doss (the protagonist in the film) launches himself into the air to kick a grenade back to the enemy was over the top.

3. Holding a rifle is bad but throwing a grenade at the enemy is not so bad
Desmond doesn’t want to hold a rifle because he doesn’t want to take human lives. However, there was this scene where Desmond picks up a grenade thrown at them by the Japanese and lobs it back to the enemy. Isn’t throwing a grenade at the enemy worse than firing a rifle at them?

4. The tunnel scene with Desmond and a wounded Japanese soldier
Desmond ran to a tunnel with Japanese soldiers in pursuit. With his back against a hidden wall in the tunnel, Desmond let a few Japanese soldiers run by. Seconds later, he turns his face and finds himself staring into a wounded Japanese soldier’s face. Why the hell didn’t the Japanese soldier scream to seek help from his comrades who flew by just mere seconds ago?
5. Running away from the Japanese
When a superior of Desmond was shot in both legs, he can’t walk nor run. A swarm of Japanese soldiers are quickly making their way towards the two American soldiers. Desmond places the wounded soldier on top of what looks like a sleeping bag and starts pulling him to safety. All the while, the wounded soldier sits there on the bag shooting at the Japs pursuing them. What doesn’t make sense in this scene is how fast and effortless it seems for Desmond to drag the heavy soldier through all the scattered rocks and debris. It looked like he’s dragging the wounded soldier through a slippery marble floor. The ground there shouldn’t be that smooth after being bombarded for days by American ships docked at the bay.

February 4, 2017

Is It Worth It Adding Matched Content Adsense Units On Your Website Or Blog?

If you are running a website or blog that displays Adsense ads, there's a good chance that you've received an email from Google informing you that your site is eligible for its Matched Content units. I received the email a few months ago and gave the feature a try. Before anything else, what exactly is Matched Content? In the simplest of terms, this is a page recommendation tool by Google that's attached to its Adsense program.

If you are familiar with the recommendation tools by companies like Disqus, Taboola, and MGID, Google's Matched Content works the same way but there's a huge difference. Taboola and MGID curates content from its member websites so pages from these websites are the ones that appear in the recommendation tool. This is because their business models rely purely on their member sites. Google's Matched Content is different because it's a pure recommendation tool for the website or blog that installs it. All the pages and links that the tool recommends are pages from the website. This is unless you opt to include Adsense ads to appear on the tool.

Anyway, as I mentioned above, I tried Matched Content for several months and here are my observations. One, it's really effective in introducing the visitor to more pages in your website. When I looked into the statistics for my website, I saw a significant increase in the amount of time that visitors spend on my site especially for new readers. This means that the Matched Content tool is encouraging visitors to read more posts in my website. Posts that I wrote months and even years ago are now getting trickles of readers because of the recommendation tool. That said, as far as recommending is concerned, Matched Content is quite good with it.

How about if you opt to include Adsense ads among the links and pages shown in the Matched Content tool? Before I tested this option, I was expecting to see an increase in my Adsense earnings. Unfortunately, there was no effect at all. After months of using the option, I didn't see any significant increase in my earnings because of the ads inside the Matched Content feature. Of course, I'm getting steady clicks on the ads but nothing really special. I could've used a standard Adsense unit in place of the Matched Content feature and I surely would've made more money. In short, don't bother activating the ads in your Matched Content tool. If you're going to use the tool, use it purely for its recommendation capabilities.

Although I liked the recommendation tool, I still have my reservations. I do believe that people will start ignoring the recommended articles because they look too similar with the spammy links and stories that other recommendation tools are using out there. I'm hoping that Google would do something to differentiate their tool from the others.

In conclusion, is it worth it adding Matched Content units on your website or blog? I'd say it's worth a try. Just give it a shot, track your statistics, and see how it performs. Who knows, you might get better results than I did.

February 2, 2017

Bullets Of Justice Movie Trailer Review

Bonkers. That's how I would describe the teaser trailer for Bullets of Justice, a television series in the works from Kazakhstan. Described by its creators as a "black satire", the series is set in the future during the Third World War. The plot basically follows the government-secret-project-gone-wrong format. In this instance, an American project to create super soldiers by breeding humans with swine goes wrong and unleashes an unimaginable horror upon the planet. The human-pig breed referred to as Muzzles overthrew humans from the top of the food chain. They are now the ones raising and farming humans for food. Think of it as Planet of the Apes with pigs. They should've called the series Planet of the Pigs.

The trailer for the series is exactly what you would expect from such a ridiculous idea. After all, the director is the same guy who made Code Red: All Must Die, Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort, and Re-Kill, three films that you will only enjoy stoned to the gills. Bullet of Justice has gore, guns, explosions, bad CGI, and passable makeup effects.

Like most people who had the misfortune of being informed that this series exists, I'll be watching it for two reasons. One, out of curiosity. I want to know if it will be as bad as I expect it to be. And two, Danny Trejo. The man's an interesting character whatever material he's given to work with.

There's a lot in the trailer that will have you scratching your head. The mustache on a woman. Danny Trejo had an Asian son. If you are going to create super-soldiers by breeding humans with animals, why choose pigs? Why not bears or lions or tigers as these creatures are known for their ferocity and violence? And did the main character just mate with his sister?

Whether this series really gets shown is still in the balance. The creators are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for its pilot episode. As of this writing, the campaign raised $1,564 of the target of $100,000. So it doesn't seem like people are trooping in to support the project. Which is not surprising really. Good luck to them still.