[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]
The Tomorrow War (2021) Medium: Movie (Amazon) Rating: 0.5/5 don’t wait until tomorrow to ignore this trash Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer This movie was going swimmingly when everything was just regular life in today’s time. The second the “tomorrow” part started it went to shit. From that point on it was a series of overdone clichés from hundreds of Sci-Fi movies before it mixed in with clichés from hundreds of war movies. I think the blame is on the writers who wrote a series of scenes that relied on us forgetting about logic, continuity, and time travel. The comic relief? Not funny. The heart-warming moments? Not warming. This movie is trash.
The Watch (2020) Medium: TV (BBC) Rating: 4.4/5 worth the .. irreverent policing Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer This is not a show about superheroes. In fact, barely heroes at all but they find their way. The series is based on a world and characters created by Terry Pratchett, who I haven’t read. The series was a little rough to get into not knowing anything about it and the characters were odd at first, then I appreciated them as over-the-top quirky weirdos that find their way together as they “police” the city. The casting is superior and each actor really embraces their role, bringing something special to their character. Season one offers a fun story that is wrapped up neatly at the end, of course with a teaser that it will return.
Debris S1 (2021) Medium: TV (Peacock) Rating: 2.5/5 potentially good show lost in all the pieces Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Two episodes in and the show was interesting. I immediately formed ideas of what I thought would come later in the season but in one case they did it in the first episode. It set a great pace and suggested a promising show with some creativity. I could suspend disbelief on the whole alien technology thing but couldn’t when it came to the “protocols” used to investigate alien debris. Then, about half way through the series, it began to spiral out of control with sub-plots and ideas that simply weren’t compelling. Add to that an attempt to bring some kind of sexual tension between the two main characters that just wasn’t there, and it’s easy to understand why the show was canceled after one season.
Black Widow (2021) Medium: Movie (Disney+) Rating: 1 / 5 i’d rather watch the peacock spider Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Marvel whipped out its script; the script they use to write movie scripts for MCU films. Formulaic, predictable, and have gotten boring. Black Widow has potential for a more interesting back story and tie-in to the current timeline and Marvel fell way short on that I think. Comedic character? Check. Over-engineered fight scenes that aren’t clever? Check. Basically, instead of making the character more interesting and getting us more invested, we’re left with a movie that didn’t really matter if it came out. Personally, I find the Black Widow character entirely more interesting after the first she appeared in and a lot less so after this one. Finally, I hope the camera crew didn’t injure their backs bending over to get all the shots highlighting the women’s asses.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Medium: Movie Rating: 2.5 / 5 The word ‘fuck’ is 1/3rd of the plot Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer If you saw the first movie, you know exactly what to expect with this one. Over-the top gun fights, Ryan Reynolds being himself as you try to divorce your mind from thinking “Deadpool”, and apparently an attempt to break the record for the use of the word “fuck”. As with many sequels, they try to make it more compelling by adding some big name actors. In this case, Morgan Freeman, who didn’t really add much to the movie. So this is good mindless entertainment while you work on your puzzle or cross-stitch or sort your Legos.
[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]
Stowaway (2021) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Rating: 3 / 5 Shot for the stars, fell short This movie had a lot going for it; a tiny cast (four people), decent budget, and a human drama as the engine. It stars Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Toni Collette, and the standout Shamier Anderson. Perhaps it is that the three characters are reserved scientists and/or astronauts making Anderson’s performance more vibrant. Somehow in every scene he invoked a world of emotion that made me feel when he was happy or sad. The movie was on track to be pretty amazing until the last third where it went downhill, falling into several traps that near-term Sci-Fi movies do. But ignoring that aspect, it still just went out into left field and broke down completely on characters whose actions just stopped making sense. It’s good for a quiet movie to fall asleep to and I hope to see Anderson in more movies. [Update: After writing this, before publishing, I saw I get my wish!]
Infinite (2021) Medium: Movie (Paramount+) Rating: 1 / 5 My contempt for the man who recommended this is infinite Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Just after starting the movie, during the opening voice over, I wrote down that this movie “spells out this is ‘Wanted‘ meets ‘The Old Guard‘”. Damn I nailed it. It even had some fun unique guns and bullets just like Wanted! Mark Walberg demonstrates that he has just given up on movies in my opinion. Rather than over-acting like he did in some earlier in his career, now he has resigned himself to be this flat character with no acting range, poorly manufactured emotion, and 100% reliance on his body. Like every action movie for too many years, the ending was ridiculous. Suspend disbelief on reincarnation? Sure! A motorcycle jumping off a cliff and landing on the wing of a plane flying below? Nope. The only redeeming part of this movie was Chiwetel Ejiofor having fun as the villain.
Lupin, Part 2 (2021) Medium: TV (Netflix) Rating: 3.5 / 5 n’est-il pas censé être un voleur? Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer When we last left off, Lupin was barely a tale about a thief who pulled heists. After the second season, he still isn’t one. Instead, it’s basically a cat-and-mouse game with the bad guy(s) in an attempt to get his kidnapped son back, then expose the bad guy for doing bad things. The last episode is supposed to be the climax where all is revealed and it falls way short. Not a single part of that episode had originality; instead it was pieces cobbled together from other movies along with several missed opportunities to end it better. The upside is that this season does put a nice bow around the story arc giving a fairly clean ending despite a credits teaser saying it would return. I hope in part 3 we get to finally see him do something remotely interesting as far as being a thief.
Synchronic (2019) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4 / 5 Pretty fun and trippy Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Points to this movie for some originality and a neat premise. The time is now(ish) and a new designer drug has the ability to make you experience wild things. Instead of police, the movie is seen and experienced through the eyes of two paramedics which is a great change and appropriate. Anthony Mackie stars as one of the paramedics and does a good job in this movie, unlike some others around this time and since (he appears to star in 38% of all movies lately). A ways into the movie we learn that this drug, Synchronic, isn’t just warping perception in your mind. Instead, it allows you to briefly travel back in time. The catch? For a very short period of time, and how far back you go depends on where you are when you take the drug. It’s a good watch.
[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]
Without Remorse (2021) Medium: Movie (Amazon) Rating: 1/5 .. and without value Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer After two months of teasing and waiting, this film was a huge letdown. It seems like it was more of a collection of what Clancy thought were cool scenes strung together, with this boring plot that is based on insipid unrealistic assumptions. This movie also had no actual military consultants on it, or their input was ignored, as various aspects of this SEAL team were absurd and made no sense. I sat through a long overly drawn out scene waiting for it to finish so we could get to the finale, only to realize that was the finale. Round it out with plot holes, serious continuity problems, flat acting, and just an underwhelming everything. This movie is without remorse, without value, and full of regret.
Voyagers (2021) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 1/5 boldly going where everyone has been Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Lord of the flies. That’s really all you need for this one. If you want a spoiler of sorts; there’s no surprise ending either, the movie really is that simple.
Kodachrome (2017) Movie (Netflix) 4.5 / 5 the film developed nicely Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer I went into this movie thinking “a different take on As Good As It Gets”, with three people in a car and one of them is a jaded asshole. I left the movie really appreciating how different it was, despite sharing that premise. The great cast certainly helps with that, but the pace, music, and scenery bring it all together. Based on a true story, and knowing exactly how this movie will progress and end even without reading it, the time is worth it to experience the tension between Ed Woods and Jason Sudeikis and see the resolution, no matter how predictable. In short, its worth the drive.
Vanquish (2021) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 2.5/5 Languish is more appropriate Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Halfway through the movie I had a revelation, that this was a John Woo flick, but it had been upgraded from the usual doves to sea gulls. A movie promising action that basically had a couple pedestrian chases, some gunplay, and attempts to cut serenity with the drama… but directed by George Gallo. With Ruby Rose and Morgan Freeman, you would expect this movie to bring some excitement. Unfortunately, both actors just fell short of the depth and range we’ve seen before. Rose as a badass forced back into her previous life, Freeman as a retired cop living in a 10 million dollar home but not arousing any suspicion, a series of tasks that offered little variety and an ending that was predictable. Potential was squandered, but at least we had a scene with birds.
The Marksman (2021) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 1/5 … it missed the mark, obviously Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Entirely predictable from the first five minutes, down to specific scenes an hour later. Bad writing means they have to spell out every bit of foreshadowing to the point of being insulting. The few places it isn’t obvious you are just left with a simple guess if it is Cliche1 or Cliche2. All of the acting is flat and pedestrian, including Neeson. I’d write more but really, you’ve probably seen the film in different iterations over Neeson’s career so I bet you can imagine what this one was like. Oh the plot? Who cares.
Mortal Kombat (2021) Medium: Movie (HBO Max) Rating: 1/5 get away from me Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer On the off chance you didn’t realize, this movie is a remake of the 1995 movie which is an adaptation of a video game, made in 1992. The movie is a shallow absurd plot, because it is based on a video game without a plot, just updated with 2021 CGI. Even then the fight scenes are largely boring, the acting pedestrian, and no part of this movie is really compelling. I’ll take the rest of this review to point out how pathetic the movie studios are in that they pass over thousands of scripts from talented writers and instead, shove a remake of a remake down our throats and over-hype it. These same studios are wondering why movies are struggling in general, losing out to other forms of online content. Gee, that’s a head-scratcher.
The Yin Yang Master (2021) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5 / 5 It’s pretty and fun Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer First, this review is for The Yin Yang Master not The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity, both of which are on Netflix (more info on the difference), which gets more confusing as Netflix calls it The Yin Yang Master while Wikipedia calls it The Yinyang Master. This is the story of three realms; that of humans, spirits, and demons. The scenery and artistic visions of each realm are beautiful making it a visually stunning movie. While there are spells and swordplay, the movie isn’t dominated by that which lends itself to character development and storytelling. The familiars in the spirit world are a tad on the cheezy side as far as graphics, but they are a lot of fun. Except that they keep calling them “the ferrets” when they look more like raccoons. Otherwise, the movie keeps at a good pace and is great to unwind to if you want to enjoy a simple story that looks great on screen.
[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]
Bad Trip (2021) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 fingercuffs what?! Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix If pranks aren’t your thing, move on now. If pranks are your thing, then this is your new jam. Eric André brings his physical humor to bear in a series of pranks that are hilarious and sometimes disgusting. The premise is a simple road trip for two friends from FL to NY to pursue a “love interest”, with Tiffany Haddish playing the escaped felon protagonist chasing the guys for “stealing” her car. Several of the pranks are not only Rated R, but certainly not for young ones or those easily disgusted. If dark, sick humor born out of pranking people is appealing, this movie should keep you laughing.
Barbaren / Barbarians (2020) Medium: TV (Netflix) Rating: 4/5 nothing like potato cakes, jalapeno poppers, and a beefy sandwich for breakfast Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix || Trailer This six episode series plays out the battle of the Teutoburg Forest between Germanic tribes and a Roman Empire legion occupying their territory. The big point of intrigue is that an officer in the legion was German-born and taken by the Romans as a child. His allegiance is in question fairly early, setting us to wonder which side he will help. The show starts out a bit slow to introduce the players, establish each side, and eventually build up to the historic battle. The Germanic tribes end up led by Thusnelda, wonderfully played by Jeanne Goursaud, under a tenuous supposition but proves her loyalty and dedication to the tribes shortly before battle. The story is simple, acting good, and the story climax is worth the wait.
A Knight’s Tale (2001) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 5/5 the tale gets better every time you watch it Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer I started re-watching this movie again recently), and I was reminded how it is such a fun movie. I love how they ‘modernized’ it a bit with clever music integration. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at one point in the lists while waiting for a knight and then again for David Bowie’s “Golden Years” during the banquet and dance scene. Since jousting might be a bit boring watching it over and over, the cinematography was well-done with lead-ins to the jousts and well-executed slow motion pauses. Overall this movie brings the laughs and definitely the feels, so make sure you have onions nearby to cast blame elsewhere.
Coming 2 America (2021) Medium: Movie (Amazon) Rating: 4/5 Zamunda Ministry of Propaganda approves Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Thirty years later, a sequel that was never supposed to happen according to Arsenio Hall. I’m glad they changed their mind! While a sequel that largely follows the same plot of the first, the movie does a good job of giving equal time to the new characters while giving a very healthy dose of cameos and an incredible amount of the original cast who returned. Wesley Snipes plays the goofiest, over-the-top, African warlord and he delivers. Jermaine Fowler and KiKi Layne are the breakout stars, and Leslie Jones who I usually don’t care for at all did a great job with her character. Very light-hearted and the movie doesn’t take itself seriously one bit, the way it should be.
Cosmic Sin (2021) Medium: Movie Rating: 0/5 This movie is the sin Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing Yes, the first ‘0’ review. This movie is every bad cliché you’ve seen in a war or sci-fi movie, combined with the worst dialogue, a healthy dose of continuity failure, and just total shit for the rest. Year is 2524, quantum travel, colonizing planets, aliens? Sure, I can suspend disbelief to enjoy that. Every single bit after that? Nope. It’s hard to describe just how bad it is, how every scene is a “what?” or “that makes no sense!” Add to that the most ridiculous armor, gliding through space wearing mostly normal clothes, and silly aliens. There were two big scenes that seemed like material was left on the cutting room floor, leaving me to wonder what even happened. One question asked in the movie several times is “was the encounter positive or negative for both sides?” Negative for me, thanks for asking
I Care A Lot (2020) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 a classic evil vs evil battle Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix This is a crime movie, from start to finish. I had a notion of what the movie was about going into it, but it had a nice escalation moving past what I thought it was. There are no good people in this movie, not a single one; and that makes it fun and interesting. Pike is the standout star for sure, and Dinklage does a pretty good job playing a character that doesn’t immediately remind you of Tyrion Lannister (a challenge to be sure). One thing I really enjoyed was trying to guess who would come out on top, how it would end, and if it would be satisfying. I guessed wrong and it was quite enjoyable. The only complaint is the movie name; it just doesn’t fit to me.
Point Blank (2019) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 2/5 What’s the point? [This space intentionally left blank] Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix An ER nurse and a career criminal are forced into an unlikely partnership in taking down a ring of corrupt cops threatening the lives of both their families. The film is a remake of the 2010 French film of the same name, originally called “Àbout portant“. I suspect this is a shitty remake of the original because it is a long series of boring clichés for the most part. The only refreshing thing is that Anthony Mackey, who is muscular, gets his ass handed to him because he is a doctor and not a fighter. I’d skip this one.
Cherry (2021) Medium: Movie (Apple) Rating: 5/5 definitely not cheery Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer Despite primarily covering a small part of the lives of two characters, wonderfully played by Ciara Bravo and Tom Holland, the movie has an epic feel to it. That is helped by the movie having no lulls; scenes are only as long as they need to be before advancing to the next event. We’re given the story of an unnamed character coming of age through love, war, drugs, and crime. Throughout, the one constant in his life is his love for Emily even when the relationship is perhaps the worst thing for either of them. The acting, narration, and cinematography is outstanding and this movie is worth the watch.
3022 (2019) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 0.5/5 space junk, figuratively speaking Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon This movie is supposed to be set in the year 2190, but every single part of the technology suggests it was set in 2005. I like when Sci-Fi leans away from making everything bright and full of beeps, but this runs in the opposite direction full tilt. That means the show, with a small cast set in a small space station, needs to carry the movie. And it simply did not do that. It feels like each person was filmed giving their lines without any co-stars around for tense scenes. Very little sense of chemistry and a lot of dialogue seemed unnatural. Avoid this trash.
The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 2/5 It’s a sad song Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon I appreciate a good western, and I know a good one may be a little slow compared to other genres. This definitely fits the bill and revolves around a simple plot at first; Lefty vows to find the killer of his best friend. The cast is stellar, full of big names, yet none of the performances really stand out. Pullman plays Lefty well but the character just wasn’t compelling to me. Flanagan’s acting is over-the-top and he plays a boring stereotype. Caviezel’s stoic tough guy is boring and seemingly his normal go-to role. After the simple plot aspect concludes, the movie falls short on the rest of it giving the impression the writers felt they needed filler to round it out.
Unknown (2011) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 3.5 / 5 needs more ‘thrill’ in the ‘thriller’ designation Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Trailer This is a tough movie to review without spoilers, so maybe an anti-spoiler? You know something is coming at the end, to resolve the entire premise and plot of the movie. It does a poor job giving hints to let you guess which direction it will go, so you are on a scenic ride with no ability to look out the side windows. The one time they do give you a hint, you only realize it in hindsight because they don’t actually give you a hint. It comes across as “wait… that is poor writing” when there is a reason for it. Liam Neeson is very Liam in this movie where he plays Liam who gets a bump on the head and wakes up with some memory loss, only to find someone pretending to be him, and he has to figure it out.
SAS: Red Notice (2021) Medium: Movie (multiple) Rating: 1 / 5 Throw a red card on this one Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Ruby Rose stars in this movie with guns and badasses and shooting and fights and stuff. If that doesn’t sound exciting, neither was the movie. Rose plays for the evil side this time, not the proverbial “good guy”. The lead guy on the good side was so boring I mistook him for an extra until a few scenes in. As you might guess, the movie is full of plot holes and has quite the predictable ending. No one stands out in this movie as far as acting and there are several recognizable faces, none from notable shows either. Skip it unless you need to get sleep.
I am currently reading “This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends” by Nicole Perlroth, only on page 60 in Chapter 5, so a long ways to go before completing the 471 page tome. I hit chapter 4, titled “The First Broker” and it was of specific interest to me for sure, prompting this (second) blog on the book. A broker is defined as “a person who buys and sells goods or assets for others” so I was never a vulnerability broker by that definition. I am not trying to claim to be the actual first broker of zero-days in that context at all. Instead, I would like to share a couple of my own stories that are adjacent to the topic. This is all to the best of my recollection, but my memory isn’t the best due to being a diabetic and not having it under control for several years. If anyone involved in any of these stories has a different memory please feel free to comment or reach out directly and I will update this blog accordingly.
First, I was someone who ‘brokered’ deals in the sense of trading zero-day vulnerabilities for a few years in the mid-90s. As a member of multiple hacking groups, some an actual member and some an honorary member, one of my roles in several of those groups was not writing the zero-days because I simply wasn’t a coder and did not have that skill. Instead, it was to barter and try to gain access to specific zero-days one group or member wanted and my currency was other zero-days we had. While I couldn’t code, my social network of hackers was sizable.
Some of what I was authorized to trade for was toward the goal of obtaining e.g. “any remote zero-day in $target operating system” while in other cases it was “trade anything and everything we have for $specific-zero-day“. I acted as a go-between for the groups I was in and a liaison to the general hacker scene. Many knew me to have a well-rounded vulnerability collection and we already traded more pedestrian exploits, some of which weren’t public, but definitely more circulated in such groups.
Back then it was just hackers and groups, not companies, so we didn’t have “duffel bags stuffed full of half a million dollars in cash to buy zero-day bugs” (p.49). Instead we had other zero-day bugs which were just as valuable between groups and acted as the ideal currency. Just like Perlroth describes in her book relating the story of “Jimmy Sabien” (p.43), not his real name, the vulnerabilities had serious value back then too. Some were very closely guarded, to the point of not being shared with their group. For example, Sally may have shared 99% of her exploits and zero-days with her group but held one back because it was so valuable. That one she would use sparingly herself so as not to burn it or authorize it to be traded for a vulnerability of equal value. In those rare cases I would know just enough about the vulnerability to try to arrange a trade on her behalf, sometimes never seeing the vulnerability myself.
There were rumors at the time that some hackers had sold vulnerabilities to specific agencies in European governments. There were also rumors that some were trading zero-day exploits to a European law enforcement agency as a proffer or part of a plea to avoid being charged for hacking activity. But those were just rumors at that point. To me, that was the precursor to the more financial based zero-day market.
Later in the 90s, I was one of the two founders of a startup called Repent Security Inc. (RSI or RepSec). We were three people and started by trying to be a penetration testing shop. This was still early in the world of commercial penetration testing and we were going up against companies that either had an established business reputation like a couple of the ‘Big 5’ at the time, or companies that were pioneers in the game like The Wheel Group. We also created software for securely streaming logs over an encrypted tunnel so if a system was popped, you had the logs on a remote host with timestamps including your shell histories (which didn’t have timestamps natively). That software was partially outsourced to a renowned “InfoSec luminary” who had it developed by one of his interns on a compromised .edu machine and later essentially stole the software after RSI imploded. But that story is for another day because it isn’t part of the zero-day world, it’s part of the Charlatan and Errata world.
One thing RSI had of real value was the vulnerability database that I had been maintaining since 1993. It was first maintained for the hacker group I was part of (TNo) where it was originated by other members. When I took over maintaining it I worked on further organizing it, adding several points of metadata, and expanding it. After that group drifted apart I kept maintaining it while a member of w00w00 and honorary member of ADM, where I brokered some trades. I did not maintain the databases for either of those groups which were separate from mine, but I was privy to some of their exploits and shared some of what I had. Members from both groups would frequently ask me to check my database for exploits specific to an operating system or service they were targeting, as this was before Google and Yahoo! didn’t aggregate much in the big picture. Even though a majority of vulnerabilities were posted to Bugtraq, you couldn’t just skim it quickly to determine what was there that you could use for your purpose. Someone that had them all sorted in a database with metadata was fairly valuable. To this day, many friends and colleagues still ask me to do vulnerability lookups, now with VulnDB.
Throughout my hacker days I maintained that database, and then continued to as I transitioned into a career doing penetration testing. Like Perlroth documents in her book about the early days of iDefense and the outfit that “Sabien” worked for, we all scoured Bugtraq for our information primarily. I had the benefit of several circles of hackers and hackers-turned-legit that still traded vulnerability intelligence (vuln intel). Essentially the grey market back when the currency was still vuln intel not those duffels of cash. By that point, the database that RSI had was unparalleled in the commercial world. This was initially created before and maintained during Fyodor’s Exploit World and Ken Williams’ Packetstorm. The RSI database came before the ISS XForce database, before BID, before NIST’s ICAT Metabase, and before MITRE’s CVE. More importantly, it was heavy on exploit code but light on proper descriptions or solutions, so it was geared toward penetration testing and compromising machines rather than mature vulnerability intelligence.
As RSI struggled to get penetration testing gigs and opted to work on the “Secure Remote Streaming” (SRS) product, we had taken a trip to Atlanta to talk to ISS about selling a copy of our database to their relatively new X-Force penetration testing team (I forgot who we met there other than Klaus, but I would love to remember!). That deal did not happen and we soon found ourselves in talks with George Kurtz at Ernst & Young, one of the ‘Big 5’. While most or all of the ‘Big 5’ had penetration testing teams, their reputation wasn’t the best at the time. That was primarily due to their testers frequently being traditional auditors turned penetration testers, rather than being a ‘real’ tester; someone that came up through the hacking ranks.
It is also important to remind everyone that back then these companies “did not hire hackers“. Some literally printed it in advertisements as a selling point that they did not hire and would not consort with so-called black hats. This was almost always an outright lie. Either the company knew the background of their team and lied, or they did not know the background and conveniently overlooked that their employees had zero experience on their resume around that skillset, yet magically were badass testers. Years of companies claiming this also led to what we see now, where many security professionals from that time still refuse to admit they used to hack illegally even 25 years later.
Anyway, back to George and E&Y. It made sense that a shop like that would want to get their hands on RSI’s database. If their testers were primarily from the auditor / bean-counter side of things they would not have had their own solid database. Even if they had hackers it didn’t mean they came with the same vuln intel we had. As best I recall, the negotiations went back and forth for a couple weeks and we settled on a one-time sale of the RSI database for $75,000 with the option to revisit selling ‘updates’ to it as we continued to maintain it. This would have become the first commercial vulnerability intelligence feed at the time I believe, in early 1999. Then, disaster.
The FBI raided the offices of RSI, which was my apartment. At the time that was a death sentence to a penetration tester’s career. Regardless of guilt, the optics were one of black hat / criminal hacking, and finding someone to trust you to break into their systems was not happening. RSI dissolved and I found myself struggling to find work of any kind. So I reached back out to George about the deal we had on the table that we were close to signing and said I was fine with the price, let’s do it. Suddenly, Kurtz had a change of heart.
He didn’t have a change of heart as far as doing the deal, his change was in the price. Instead of $75,000 he came back and said we could do the deal for $25,000 instead, just a third of what we had agreed to. He knew I was in a tight spot and needed the money and he took full advantage of that. This is someone who had a reputation of being a friend to hackers, someone that had bridged the gap between the business world and hackers to put together a reputable team at E&Y. He even had his name on a book about penetration testing, co-authored with names other hackers recognized. He was also very explicit that he knew I had no real power at that point and refused to budge on his one-third offer.
So when he had a chance to honor the deal we originally worked on, a chance to be a friend to a hacker, at no expense of his own? He opted to screw me. Since I was out of options and my limited savings were dwindling I had to accept the offer. That takes me full circle, via a meandering path I know, to likely making one of the largest vulnerability sales at the time. While it wasn’t a single exploit, a $25k deal that was originally set to be $75k is pretty impressive for the time. If RSI had made it, odds are we would have become a software (SRS) and vulnerability intelligence shop rather than a penetration testing shop.
Many aspects of how Perlroth describes the early days of iDefense and “Sabien’s” shop, we were already doing. With a lot fewer people than they claimed, but we were aggregating information from Bugtraq and other sources, writing exploits for some of the vulnerabilities, and then we began to try to sell that information. I guess it isn’t a big surprise I ended up in the vulnerability intelligence business eventually.
Outside the Wire (2021) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 1 / 5 Keep it outside your watch list Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But it just starts out absurd at so many levels. It feels like someone wrote the script, a second person made serious edits, a third, and so on. Until you get a cohesive plot, but missing logic throughout. An unsupervised AI in a sci-fi body, contrasted by robot “Gumps” that are idiots and can’t shoot too well, a command structure that of course sends the new guy on a crazy mission, a drone operator that knows the streets of every city apparently, and that AI who is never wrong … of course is wrong? This had potential but it was squandered.
Coyote Season 1 Medium: TV (CBS All Access) Rating: 4/5 No moleste por favor Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon If you are wondering what happened to Michael Chiklis, he’s back! This time as a just-retired Border & Customs agent that finds himself on the other side of the border trying to do right by his former partner’s family. This quickly leads him down a path where he finds himself involved in the cartel and that is just the first messy part of his new life. No car chases, no shoot-outs, just a good slow build drama worth the watch.
Underwater (2020) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 0.5/5 drown yourself in booze before watching Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Another disaster porn meets horror movie of sorts! And like most (all?), it’s a perfect string of coincidences and a boring recipe that advances the ‘plot’ forward. Just the right amount of suits! They are all magically the right size, even for people that have never used them! Science and physics take a backseat! T.J. Miller, the bad writer’s comic crutch, who literally has to say a ‘funny’ line every single time! Ending? Predictable, stupid, and a bad attempt to get philosophical (?) making it that much worse. Skip this trash.
The Next Three Days (2010) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 … are pretty dramatic Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Aisha Hinds, Jason Beghe, Lennie James, and a cameo by Liam Neeson… and I missed this movie? Maybe bad previews originally? I’m glad this popped up on Netflix’ recommendations; this as a well-done movie. Simple plot, but great casting, and fed you enough morsels to string you along to make you anticipate how it would end. This movie delivered all around with flawed but real characters at every turn and the willingness to leave some threads unpulled, where other movies might have wasted time on it.
Seungriho / Space Sweepers (2021) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 Modern space cyberpunk Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix Set in 2092, with Earth on its last legs, we start out following a rag-tag crew of a ship that tries to collect space debris, which they can sell for cash. Barely scraping by, each living the life for their own reason and varied past, the money to get them out of poverty is always out of reach. When they find a surprise in junk they collect, it starts a crazy adventure that promises money they could only dream of. This South Korean movie has excellent production value, good acting, an aggressive plot, and brings the feel of a future that is part dystopia, part cyberpunk. The only challenge was keeping up with the subtitles during the fast-pace scenes. This is a fun ride with a good dose of the feels.
Silk Road (2021) Medium: Movie (Apple) Rating: 2/5 Long and meandering like its namesake Reviewer: jericho Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Apple TV This is the 2021 movie, not the 2017 movie, about the Silk Road marketplace and the person behind it. The actual story is fascinating and full of suspense and drama. The impact the Silk Road marketplace had on part of the world for a while was incredible. This movie adaptation was probably fairly accurate, but also fairly dull for anyone already familiar with the subject matter. If you don’t know about the marketplace and saga around it, you will probably enjoy this movie a bit more.
Soul (2020) Medium: Movie (Disney) Rating: 5/5 movie and music magic Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Disney Disney knows how to do modern cartoons and this is no exception. The story follows Joe, a school band teacher who seems to have lost his way. As he sees a spark of passion in one student’s musical ability and then lands the gig of his life, he has a mishap and finds himself at the pearly gates but refuses to accept that fate. In limbo Joe runs into an odd one known as “22” and finds himself on an adventure to help 22 find a spark so that they can live a life on earth. The movie has a great stride and flows very well with an amazing cast of vocal talent as well as some incredible music by an unlikely trio, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the original score and John Batiste with original jazz songs. The movie brings the laughs and the feels and is perfect for all ages.
Kajillionaire (2020) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 stick with it Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon This quirky movie is billed as a Crime/Drama but as far as modern movies go, that is about the farthest thing from what it really is. It’s more of a slow-play dry commentary on the nature of humans and how odd we can be, with a splash of low-end grifting, wrapped into a family-dynamic sleeper hit that also moonlights as a love-story. For me, it started out slow and confused as I couldn’t figure out what type of movie it was. About half-way through I was hooked as I realized it wasn’t trying to be any specific genre; it just did its thing with Evan Rachel Wood stealing the show. If you dig on off-the-beaten-path flicks, this one is worth a go.
Greenland (2020) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 2/5 the title is the most redeeming quality Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon It must have been a few years since the last earth-snuffing porn, as we tend to get one movie like that every so often, although more recently in the form of plagues and zombies. Gerard Butler and end of the world, pretty much tells you what you need to know about this movie. All the stereotypical things from this genre of movie too; poorly manufactured explosions to tide you over before the real city-snuffing comes, impromptu gangs that make no sense, cell service outages for plot advancement, and really bad dialogue snippets. I definitely like I watched this so you wouldn’t have to.
Lupin, Part 1 (2020) Medium: TV (Netflix) Rating: 3.9/5 pas une série de braquages Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix This 10 episode series is described as “inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family”. The first episode of five in part one sets the stage of a master thief and the heist of a 20-million dollar piece of jewelry. Unfortunately, we quickly learn that the main character is not really a master thief. While he has skill in makeup, blending in, and pickpocketing, there are no other grand heists involved. Instead, it becomes more of a drama around avenging his father’s death with the thief / con man / grifter components as a side piece to facilitate the main story. Overall it is fairly entertaining but entirely too predictable and not very thought-provoking. Great for falling asleep to.
News of the World (2020) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 3.5/5 bit of a slow read Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon We follow Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) as he travels from town to town reading the “news of the world”. Along the way he encounters a young girl, Johanna, played by Helena Zengel, who has grown up in an Indian tribe that was decimated by whites and speaks no English. Kidd decides to take her to the family she was going to before becoming stranded, and the story progresses. Given the movie stars Hanks and is a period piece, I expected an amazing movie. Unfortunately it just didn’t come together and became disjointed the farther it went. At almost two hours it still felt like parts ended up on the cutting room floor that might have tied some of the beginning to the end better. Worth a watch, wait for it to hit Netflix.
Freaks (2018) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4/5 every single character is a freak Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix This Canadian-made super-(anti)-hero movie is a different style than many movies of the genre. It starts out a bit slow and leaves you wondering what is happening and some of those questions go unanswered until very late in the movie. But it has a good slow buildup, good casting, a simple premise, and a solid conclusion. Slightly dystopian where anyone with any power is labeled a ‘freak’ and hunted by the government. This movie doesn’t spoon feed you a simple person with powers like most mainstream films of the sort. Worth a watch.
Joker (2019) Medium: Movie (HBO Max) Rating: 5/5 he’ll laugh, you’ll laugh Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon I saw this in theaters, you know, just before the society-crippling pandemic robbed us of basic joys. I left the theater confused, not sure if I really liked the movie or really didn’t. By that night, after a discussion with Lyger, I realized that I really liked it. I re-watched it recently and still really enjoy it. The biggest factor is that it is a complete break from the DC universe as far as style goes. While we have seen Batman’s origin story, in one form or another, many times over, the villain’s origin stories are often relegated to fairly quick scenes (Suicide Squad) or not explored (The Dark Knight). Having an entire movie to see how Todd Phillips’ envisioned this iconic villain’s origin was worth the adventure. This movie leans a bit toward Nolan’s Batman trilogy as far as feel and is the polar opposite of other DC offerings like Superman, Wonder Woman, or Aquaman. Forget the DC universe when you go into this, just focus on this movie and Phoenix’s incredible portrayal of Joker.
Aquaman (2018) Medium: Movie (Multiple) Rating: 0.5/5 this movie s(t)inks Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon For some reason, DC Comics has a problem making good movies with few exceptions, and this isn’t Nolan’s Batman or Wonder Woman. Instead, Aquaman had the feel of a franchise desperate to create the feel of a Marvel Universe movie. Every single thing was predictable, cliché, and boring. “There’s too many casualties!” But let’s stop for a sloppy wet kiss of course. Seriously, we need a new word for “overdone movie cliché”. They tried to make this by loading it with big names but as we often see, put that many big names together and they still can’t save a movie. Skip this, take a bath instead.
Prospect (2018) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 4.5/5 I dig it Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix A sci-fi movie I hadn’t heard of that turned out pretty damn good, what gives? Oh, Pedro Pascal is in it and he has enjoyed a little attention recently. This movie has a small cast set on some distant world where brave adventurers go to prospect a part of an alien life form that requires some skill and finesse rather than brute strength. When a father / daughter duo touch down chasing the ultimate score, things go sideways. The movie is more of a thriller and sci-fi a vehicle to deliver the underlying story, which is compelling and well-done. If you can look past a few simple plot holes, you may find this movie really enjoyable like I did.
Rememory (2017) Medium: Movie (Netflix) Rating: 3.5/5 A bit forgettable Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Sam, the main character played by Peter Dinklage, injects himself into the life of a brilliant scientist who is brilliant, and the movie makes sure you know he is brilliant. The science is being able to record and playback memories, ala Strange Days. But for some reason Sam plays back mostly on a tiny screen in a briefcase that is the device. Anyway, he ends up in the middle of the life and murder of this scientist and decides to find out who did it, with this new technology being the central piece of the story. Ultimately, the movie has some neat ideas, good acting, but just falls short as it all doesn’t fully come together. It’s the kind where you can’t quite put your finger on it but just know something was lacking.
The Queen’s Gambit (2020) Rating: 5/5 check it out mate Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix This miniseries, based on a 1983 book with the same name, is a fictional story about a chess prodigy turned master. It has the feeling of a real story and the producing, sets, and acting strongly lend to this. The main character, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, does an epic job playing a character who has personality quirks and addiction issues. The story is set many decades ago and gives a good reminder of the expectations about women in society. While chess may not seem to be a good basis for a fast-pace drama, the series does a wonderful job maintaining a good pace. I highly recommend this series for everyone.
Tenet (2020) Rating: 5/5 – Action-packed mind-fuck Reference(s): IMDB Listing OK, you have to see Tenet. I think i liked it a lot? But I won’t be sure until I see it a second time. At least. Maybe a third time? It is a very cerebral movie and it makes Inception look like a cartoon in some ways. There are several layers and I think on a second watch I will probably notice a lot of things that would have helped keep up / understand along the way the first time through. Things that are better revealed toward the end as the movie progresses and evolves that will potentially make it more enjoyable the second time around. Very neat movie; great casting, great acting, and it really draws you in.
Ted Lasso (2020) [Apple TV] Rating: 5/5 better than a biscuit, which is a cookie Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Apple This comedy from Apple TV stars Jason Sudeikis as “Ted Lasso”, an American football coach recruited to coach a British football (soccer) team. It’s basically Gomer Pyle (Lasso) meets Major League (plot) to start and it delivers. Sudeikis does a wonderful job playing the always upbeat transplant assisted by coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) as they are immersed in a new culture and new sport at the same time. It’s not a sports show at all, it’s just about the people and interactions with goofy analogies and quick wit. Very light and well-done comedy, worth the watch.
Devs (2020) [Hulu] Rating: 4.9/5 I have seen what perfection has wrought Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon You think you have seen interesting or compelling tech company drama? You haven’t until you watch this, and you will. You will understand the concept of quantum computing before you start the show and you will embrace the many-worlds theory. You find this review confusing now but it will become clear, until it doesn’t again. And then you will find yourself the god in the machine while you ponder the implications of when computing power goes too far. You will then enjoy your new state of enlightenment and make better choices.
Described as a drama/thriller when mindfuck is more apt. This show does a great job of making you think about serious implications that quantum computing could bring. While it is certainly sci-fi in the level of computing power suggested, it creates a nice vehicle to let us have a glimpse into what “quantum supremacy” might mean.
Marauders (2016) Rating: 4.5/5 But i’m a sucker for heist flicks Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni, and Dave Bautista in a cops and robbers movie and somehow I completely missed this movie existed until I saw it on a Netflix scroll?! As a fan of the genre and generally not too critical of such movies, this one was surprisingly good. None of the acting stood out particularly but none of it was bad. A couple extra decent actors and the movie came together pretty well. Until halfway through I was wondering which way it would go as far as the “who done it” goes. The ending? Not how I would have played it out. If you like the genre, it’s worth a watch.
Fatman (2020) Rating: 4/5 who let him make movies again? This movie is a light-hearted take on Christmas and the failures of Santa, at least through the eyes of Walter Goggins’ character. This is kind of a comeback movie for Mel Gibson after his numerous personal failures, some that make it ironic with him playing a very Christian character while personally being a drunk and hating Jews / black people. Gibson’s last bit makes it all the more surprising that the amazing Marianne Jean-Baptiste would sign on to play his wife giving a modern interracial Claus family. Really surprising that despite his history that his career freeze has “thawed” as they say in the industry and that he is being given a second chance. While he can be a great actor, essentially bringing the same character “Porter” from Payback (1999) to play Santa, I have to wonder is Hollywood so hurting for actors that they would accept him back after his sordid history?
Oh sorry, enough of that shitbag that can act well. Fun movie, two great actors as main characters, fun and simple story, it really brings the true spirit of Christmas in my eyes. Think [generic assassin movie] + Toys + [cynical Christmas movie] and you know what are you in for. Worth a watch, but don’t pay for it which shows support for Gibson. Find another way to watch it for free and then find a way to support Baptiste and Goggins directly instead. Did I mention fuck Gibson?
The Midnight Sky (2020) Rating: 2.5/5 The movie belongs on a fiery earth Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix Based on a book I didn’t read, this movie adaptation brings some star power with Felicity Jones and George Clooney. Without spoiling, the movie screamed “this is not what it seems” from the beginning so the ending was not as impactful as it could have been. Earth on fire and nearly uninhabitable? Sure! A two (?!) year voyage to the nearest habitable planet outside the solar system? OK! Man losing supplies then falling into arctic water and surviving? Prepare to suspend disbelief in the worst way. Overall, I suspect this is a case where the movie just didn’t do the book justice and fell short.
[Update: @_pronto_ pointed out they traveled to a moon of Jupiter, not outside the solar system. But still, a new moon of Jupiter that we didn’t know about is a viable alternative to Earth and Mars apparently isn’t?]
2067 (2020) Rating: 2.5 / 5 – Science friction is more like it Reference(s): IMDB Listing For fans of the sci-fi genre, I don’t know if I should recommend 2067 or not. On one hand I like near-term sci-fi and I like dystopian films, which this offers both of. On the other, there are quite a few annoying bits about this, primarily the cast. I didn’t give two shits about anyone and most were annoying enough that I wanted them to die. Throw in a couple completely illogical things to advance the plot, a sign of bad writing in my opinion, and it just didn’t mesh well. It was good enough that, a ways in, I was willing to stick with it just to see how it ended. Recommend for watching while working, doing a puzzle, or falling asleep to.
The Jesus Rolls (2019) Rating: 2/5 between 7-10p split, don’t watch Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon Did you know there was a spin-off to The Big Lebowski? Neither did I until recently. It follows a brief part of Jesus’ life, but not really his life bowling unfortunately. This is basically the story of two hapless and idiot guys on the lowest-end crime spree you can imagine. The humor is also some of the lowest-end too; there wasn’t that much to laugh about as the bit comedy was lacking overall. I’d pass on this and re-watch the dude. On the upside, we do learn the story behind the sex offender registry.
War Inc (2008) Rating: 1/5 Disown the “spiritual cousin” Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon John Cusack plays an assassin in this movie co-starring Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd … no, he does in this movie too. According to Wikipedia, Joan Cusack said, “.. in a way, it was a Grosse Pointe Blank 2” while John Cusack said it was a “spiritual cousin to Grosse Pointe Blank”. Sure, I can see that but it isn’t nearly as amusing. Intended to be political comedy & commentary (comedary?) it comes across as a cliché to other cliché films while borrowing from characters from the prior film. Rather than go with more subdued humor around a military presence in a fictional Middle Eastern country, they opted to go over-the-top and it really detracted from the potential. Skip this, (re)watch GPB instead.
Ready Player Two is an enjoyable read that keeps the spirit and overall feel of the first book, with a few chapters in the middle that are a bit difficult to slog through. Worth a read though.
Ready Player Two is the aptly named sequel to Ready Player One. It picks up shortly after the end of the first book with four heroes ‘enjoying’ their lives to varying degrees, now as owners of the corporation that controls the OASIS. Similar to the first book, the sequel takes us on a new journey through an epic quest with even higher stakes. Instead of three gates now we’re faced with finding seven shards, each tied to a planet within the OASIS.
The main character and hero of the first book, Wade Watts, can’t find the first of seven shards and ends up paying someone a billion dollars for instructions to find it. The second comes after playing the ‘Sega Ninja’ arcade game in a specific place and completing the entire game. That takes us to the planet Shermer, a tribute to all things John Hughes. For this shard, rather than feeling like I was reading a well-written book, it felt more like reading a Wikipedia page with a vague plot instead. Factoid after factoid about John Hughes, his movies, characters in the movies, alternate scripts to the movies, and a lot of other pedantic details was poorly conceived.
The third shard takes us to Halcydonia, a planet designed to provide free education to any child in the world. After a lot of words for perhaps the easiest quest, the fourth shard bears the symbol of Prince and leads us to a planet ‘named’ in the same fashion. This becomes yet another Wikipedia page thinly disguised as a book chapter and bogs down the flow of the book. Even worse, the Prince quest drags on for several chapters. After an interesting battle with seven iterations of Prince, the next quest takes us into the world of Tolkien but not the more mainstream literature like the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. With six shards in hand, Wade uses them to create the seventh shard and the actual plot continues. From here the rest of the story unfolds rapidly and is considerably more enjoyable.
The books are set in the year 2045 and focused heavily on ‘retro’ culture, meaning us readers are well versed on many of the cultural aspects of the story like John Hughes, arcade games, Prince, and Tolkein. Since the story is set more than 20 years in the future, we’re given a good description of the technology that makes it possible and the state of the world. What is completely missing is any notion of anything cultural between the death of Prince and the time of the story. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to get distracted with a shard quest centered on a fictional piece of culture, I think the author has the writing chops to do exactly that and make it interesting, but does not.
Cline has been praised for his depiction of gender and sexuality in the book, and he deserves some credit for sure. During that bit, Wade tells us that with the new technology he had experienced sex as and with different genders and orientations. Cline should have made Wade decide to realize he is pansexual after his admitted experiences having sex with and as different genders. But that little bit about the technology’s ability to let one experience sex differently is mostly relegated to one page of one chapter and ultimately, the book falls on some common stereotypes in my eyes. The white girls knows all about John Hughes movies. The black girl knows all about Prince. The white boy and white girl know all about Tolkien. The Japanese boy knows the Japanese video game. Every main character has a hetero orientation except Aech, a lesbian. The only other character that suggests a different orientation, L0hengrin, is quickly glossed over. Even worse, she is potentially the most interesting new character of the entire book but is quickly put out of mind and used as a plot advancement point later with little fanfare.
Finally, while I really enjoy most of Cline’s writing style, there are small parts of the book that seem to break from the style of the first book and instead, are written as if they are lines from a movie script. In the board room when the four heroes meet the Low Five, they “run over to” greet them. In a board room with 10 people in it, there isn’t room to ‘run’. The main characters are treated as gods in the OASIS essentially, yet act like starry-eyed fans of someone that has already been written as a starry-eyed fan of them. This single scene had so many disconnects in my mind it stood out and made me wonder if Cline got distracted with notions of what the movie will look like.