paul nicholson

Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Indiana Jones And The… Yes, It Belongs

In Entertainment, Funny, Movies on October 24, 2009 at 10:53 am

One of the movie related blogs I read ran a post poking fun at a new Indiana Jones collectible item. While I have no problem poking fun at industries that make collectible 12″ figurines in limited runs or the adults that buy them, I do have a problem with their criticism of this particular item.

New Indiana Jones Collectible Item

New Indiana Jones Collectible Item

(I’m going to assume everyone reading this has either seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or does care about a spoiler for a non-plot related action point early in the movie. You are hereby warned.)

They, like so many before them make fun of the scene where Indiana Jones climbs into a lead-lined refrigerator to survive a nuclear blast at relatively close range. They essentially use to the term “nuked the fridge” interchangeably with “jumped the shark“. They incredulously reject the scene as silly, unbelievable, and out of place in an Indiana Jones movie.

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Pixar’s 3D Headache

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Me, Movies, Reviews on October 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

To say this wouldn’t fit in 140 characters is an understatement. Sorry for the long-winded post. Just takes some explaining…

I just got through seeing the Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D double feature. Those that know me, already know that i’m a huge Pixar fan, so i won’t go into a long review of the movies. They are amazing, life changing events and you should see them (though amazingly, i think i was in the theater tonight with several people that had never seen either movie). This is more a review of the 3D-i-zation of the movies.

Interestingly i was both very pleased and disappointed. In that chronological order. I also made a discovery that i had often wondered about but never gotten the chance to test. It explains why i have always gotten a bit of a headache when i’ve watched just about any 3D movie.

First a little background: “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ were, of course, not originally created for 3D presentation. They were originally created using 3D computer animation (“Toy Story” of course being famous as the first feature length all CG film), but rendered to flat 2D images for traditional exhibition. The great thing about this process is that, of course, Pixar still has the original files they used to create these movies so it was a relatively easy process to re-render the movies in 3D (after making lots of minor tweaks to lighting, etc). This means old movies in 3D, but in true 3D – not kinda hacked apart and “spatialized” like we’ve been hearing George Lucas threaten to do with Star Wars.

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Summer Movie Update – 2009 Edition

In Entertainment, Me, Movies on April 21, 2009 at 10:56 am

It has started to become a tradition for me to chronicle what movies i’m particularly excited about seeing, or plan on seeing during the summer movie rush. (2007, 2007 update 1, 2007 update 2, 2008, 2008 update 1, 2008 update 2)

This year’s slate is a bit lighter than the past few years, due mostly to me being crazy busy and just knowing that i’ll get around to seeing fewer movies (especially since babysitting is now an issue). Here’s what we have so far:

Planning/Hoping to See:
May 1 – Battle For Terra
Looks very cool, little buzz about it though

May 1 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Looks awesome!

May 8 – Star Trek
I’m still nervous of what they’ll do to my Trek…

May 22 – Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
First flick was great fun

May 29 – Up
Pixar movie. Will be awesome. Period.

July 15 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Looks great, and loved this book

August 28 – The Boat The Rocked
Very cool subject matter and great cast. Music history!

October 16 – Where The Wild Things Are
Kinda on the fence, but i want to be excited about this one

Interested In Seeing: (Probably waiting for video)
April 24 – The Soloist
Obvious Oscar bait, but looks good

May 21 – Terminator Salvation
I hated the first 3 so much, but no James Cameron gives me hope

June 24 – Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen
I will see this movie eventually. Can’t avoid it. Michael Bay stinks though.

July 1 – Public Enemies
Great cast, great subject matter

July 1 – Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Liked the first movies

September 3 – Moon
Sam Rockwell + trippy sci-fi = cool

August 7 – GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Gonna be cheesy fun

August 14 – The Time Traveler’s Wife
Romance + sci fi = cool?

October 9 – The Informant
Cast, director, curious…

October 23 – Astro Boy
Good buzz around it

December 11 – The Lovely Bones
Peter Jackson + great cast

The most inspirational movie ever

In Entertainment, Movies, Videos on December 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Well, it isn’t the most inspirational movie ever, but rather a series of clips cut together from ALL OF THEM.

Watch the clip, then see if you can help me fill in the missing movies that i couldn’t identify.

  • Braveheart
  • The Muppet Movie The Great Muppet Caper
  • Animal House
  • Rudy
  • Street Fighter
  • Old School
  • Mr Smith Goes to Washington
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • Star Trek: First Contact
  • [Kirsten Dundst, not sure] Bring It On
  • Stand and Deliver
  • Newsies
  • Charlie Brown
  • Apollo 13
  • Rocky Balboa
  • Matrix Revolutions The Matrix Reloaded
  • [unknown Orlando Bloom] Kingdom of Heaven
  • Knute Rockne: All American
  • Alexander
  • Broadcast News Network
  • [unknown Clint Eastwood] The Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Robin Hood
  • The Little Great Dictator
  • Patton
  • [Al Pacino, not sure] Any Given Sunday
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  • 300
  • Troy
  • [not sure] Swingers
  • Miracle
  • Dead Poet’s Society
  • Galaxyquest
  • TRON The Last Starfighter
  • [Sean Connery, not sure] The Untouchables
  • [not sure] Army of Darkness
  • Mary Martin’s Peter pan
  • Hoosiers
  • The Mighty Ducks
  • Henry V
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Braveheart
  • Independence Day
  • Free Willy
  • Angels in the Outfield
  • Cool Runnings
  • Dead Poet Society (again)
  • [not sure] Meatballs
  • Spartacus
  • Goonies
  • Superman Superman II
  • The Neverending Story
  • Rudy (again)
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  • Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Rocky 2

(Thanks to my friend Brett who filled in a few missing movies, and corrected where i originally listed “The Last Starfighter” as being “TRON”. I am so embarrassed.)

Just found a link to the original maker of the video and his post. He talks about the process of making it, etc.

Upcoming Movie Update

In Entertainment, Movies on November 14, 2008 at 11:21 am

It’s been a while since i’ve updated everyone on my “want to see” movie list. With about 5 movies releasing new trailers this weekend, i figured now is a good time.

MOVIES I REALLY WANT TO SEE:

Nov 21 2008 – Bolttrailer
   I know, it isn’t Pixar
   I have hope that Disney is capable of making good kids movies.

Dec 5th 2008 – J.C.V.D.trailer
   Jean-Claude Van Damme plays “himself”
   Its a parodyish, action, introspective, real, fake…just watch the teaser

Dec 12 2008 – The Day The Earth Stood Stilltrailer
   The original is one of my top 5 movies of all time
   Klatuu may be the one role Keanu Reeves was meant to play

Dec 25th 2008Marley & Metrailer
   Rom Com of the holiday season.

Dec 25th 2008 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttontrailer
   SciFi-ish adaptation of a short story

Jan 23rd 2009 – Inkhearttrailer
   I like Brended Frasier when he has fun with good material

Feb 6th 2009 – Fanboystrailer
   Changed and re-shot from the original pitch, but still could be ok.
   Looks too much like a teen sex comedy now though. We’ll see…

Mar 6th 2009 – Watchmen
   Comic book Graphic novel fans are going nuts.
   I’m new to it, but very curious.

Mar 13th 2009 – Race to Witch Mountain
   A remake of sorts starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

May 1st 2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
   The first of a few “origin” X-Men movies planned.

May 8th 2009 – Star Trektrailer
   ‘Reimaging’ prequel by “Lost” creator JJ Abrams

May 22nd 2009 – Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
   Who wouldn’t want to see this cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams
   Rickey Gervais, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Steve Coogan,
   Dick Van Dyke, Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy…

May 29th 2009 – Up
   New Pixar movie with Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, etc

Jul 17th 2009 – Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
   Delayed almost a year from the original date
Nov 20th 2009 – Sherlock Holmes
   Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law

INTERESTING AND/OR OSCAR BAIT:

Dec 19th 2009 – Seven Poundstrailer
   Will Smith, Woody Harrelson, etc
April 24th 2009 – The Soloisttrailer
   Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr

2009 – Crossing Overtrailer
   Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd

How WALL-E was not an environmental movie

In Entertainment, Family, Friends, Movies on July 24, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Ok, i mentioned this briefly in my last post (recapping all the summer movies i’ve seen), but this apparently needs to be addressed again.

My cousin-in-law just made a post about the movie and he has comments disabled, so you get to hear my rebuttal here. Be warned that this post will be as spoiler free as possible, but if you haven’t seen the movie, just know that both Brian and I liked it and you should go see it. Then come back and read the article and participate in the discussion.

Brian starts off by taking issue with “the crystal clear liberal environmental objective.”

Just gotta take that first and ask: Why does anything environmental have to be liberal? Christy and i are very environmentally conscious. Letting the left-win-liberal-politicos co-opt environmental responsibility is just as bad as letting the right-wing-conservatives co-opt Christianity. But then again…that gets us down the broken two-party system rat hole (see here for another example)… Moving on…

“The entire premise of the movie is that the earth has become overrun with garbage and taken over my big business.”

Nope. Those are important facts, but that is not the premise of the movie – that would be the setting and set-up for the movie. The premise and plot of the movie… well…he actually gets close to it here in a second…

“…this is a really good illustration of how we have to be very sensitive to what messages our families – especially our children – are bombarded with…It is our responsibility to protect our children and shape a biblical worldview in their hearts”

Now we’re getting closer to what the movie was actually about. The fact that the Earth was grungy and people had to move off of it wasn’t the point at all. As Brian said “The hero of the movie is of course Wall-E [sic], a garbage compactor.” And what is WALL-E’s story about? A relationship. He is lonely and wants a relationship. Brian describes what he finds on the spaceship: “people are on a space ship, where they have been for hundreds of years, and are now all overweight and lazy.” …and…haven’t seen each other face to face and interacted as people in generations.

The point of this movie was not that we trash the planet then move off, become even fatter and more lazy (and more commercial), and then WALL-E convinces them to go fix the Earth. The whole fixing the Earth bit at the end thing is what the industry calls a “subplot”. It was EVE’s motivation through the movie and helped provide conflict for the antagonist to give the movie some action. The point of this movie – the real message, is summed up very well by something i heard writer/director Andrew Stanton say in an interview after i saw the flick: “What would happen if the most human thing left in the galaxy was a robot”. You could call this an anti-technology movie. A pro-social/relationship movie. A love story. But environmental movie it was not.

WALL-E reminded the people on board how to be human. He pushed through barriers and loves EVE. That message, together with a subplot reminding us that we were put on this planet with a specitic instruction from God: GEN 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Both of those are messages i’d be glad for my kids to internalize one day.

Summer movie update

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 23, 2008 at 10:49 am

Way back on Valentines Day i listed all the summer blockbuster movies i was amped about seeing. Now that we’re most of the way through the movie season, i thought i’d give a bit of a recap/update with mini reviews since i didn’t make posts after seeing most of them. Don’t worry, i’ll warn and censor any possible spoilers.

First, i’d like to point out that unlike the summer before, this summer wasn’t all sequels and remakes. There were several, but they were not nearly as dominant as last year. I’m not saying every movie was terribly original, but it was nice to be treated to more of the unexpected, and get introduced to new characters for a change.

Feb 14th – Jumper

Didn’t see it. Heard it sucked. Will probably grab it on Netflix eventually.

April 18 – The Forbidden Kingdom

Didn’t see it, though i heard it was decent. Still want to see, but is on my Netflix queue now.

May 2 – Iron Man

Great movie. Started the summer off right. Just the right balance of substance and just having a ton of fun. Special effects were awesome, acting was solid, script was tight. Not fine art cinema – no Oscars here – but really good movie that should be very rewatchable.

May 9 – Speed Racer

This one was ok. I was fairly disappointing that there was much more language and violence in this than i think should have been allowed as a PG movie. Having said that, if it had been rated PG-13 i would have enjoyed it more. I also think the acid-trip visuals worked for me after a while. It was much more of an art film in that regard than i expected – almost to the point of being avant-garde or experimental really. Once i got used to that, i think it was a good film. Middle of the road, but good.

May 16 – Chronicles of Narnia: Price Caspian

Excellent, but like Speed Racer this one should have been PG-13. It was pretty much in line with the first Lord of the Rings movie, but without blood. Literally. Same number of bodies falling. Same number of swords stabbing, etc…just no blood squirting when it happens. But like i said, very good. True to the book (almost too much – those who haven’t read it might be confused) and well acted and written. I hope they keep moving through the books – at least make it a trilogy. These Narnia movies could have been drivel, but so far so good.

May 22 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I went in with mid-level expectations and didn’t bury myself in spoiler-filled coverage before it came out and i think it paid off. I really liked this one. I think what i liked best was that it assumed that Indy kept doing things for the last 20 years. [SPOILER ALERT – HIGHLIGHT TEXT TO READ IT] It referenced Young Indiana Jones Chronicles events, assumed that Indy was in the service during WWII (which of course he would be), etc. He wasn’t just old, he had a life. The only gripe i had on this one was the scene with Mutt swinging from the vines with monkeys…and the truck/cliff/tree moment that was straight out of a Wiley Coyote cartoon. Otherwise the suspension of disbelief was within what i was willing to deal with, and loads of fun. I also think this one worked better because it tapped into a mythos that i was familiar with. Indy 1 and 3 were great because i grew up hearing about what they were after. Temple of Doom didn’t reach me as well because i didn’t care about the MacGuffin. In this one, it worked because i’ve heard about Rosewell aliens for years and mysterious temples in South America, so i was ready to see those fantasies played out on screen. [END SPOILERS] Wish i could see this one again, but i guess i’ll have to wait for the blu-ray for a second go-round.

June 20 – Get Smart

Didn’t see it. Might get around to this one eventually, but the closer it got and the more i saw about it, the more it looked like it wasn’t my kinda movie.

June 27 – WALL-E

Great movie. I can see where most people are coming from with the reviews that the first act was great, but the later parts of the movie dropped off. While yes, the first part was fun and light and enjoyable, a whole 2-hour feature of that would have gotten boring after a while. I enjoyed this one thoroughly, though it still ranks behind A Bug’s Life, Cars, and Finding Nemo for me in the Pixar pantheon. [MINOR SPOILER ALERT – highlight text to read] I also didn’t take issue at all with the concerns some had with the message of the movie. Firstly i don’t think it was that much of a message movie. On first viewing i definitely got a message, but on further examination, really this was a love story set on the backdrop of a humorously exaggerated extreme future. [ END SPOILERS]

July 2 – Hancock

Awesome. I really think people that didn’t like this movie went in with too many expectations. This wasn’t Pursuit of Happiness or Independence Day, but a wonderful balance between the two. [MINOR SPOILER ALERT – Highlight text to read] I also love that though this movie had a major ‘twist’ (which was by some miracle not spoiled in the trailers), the movie wasn’t about the twist. It had a twist, then moved on to what the movie was really about. Kudos to the writers and i think they also thankfully avoided dealing the the alcoholic/tortured super-hero issue too much, which leaves room for those stories in Ironman sequels [SPOILER END]. Highly recommended.

July 11 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Haven’t seen yet, but still hope to see before it leaves theaters. If i have to wait for blu-ray though, i can.

July 18 – The Dark Knight
Great movie but… It was a little too dark and a little too long for me. Good movie, but it needed to be tightened up. Many subplots that could have been cut (one in particular) and well…gonna have to go into spoiler mode: [SPOILER ALERT – Highlight text to read] All of the acting was spectacular, and the overall direction was good, but the script needed work. The entire Hong Kong sequence should have been cut, and overall it just needed a few nips and tucks. My only other major gripe was Two-Face. One that he didn’t get enough time, and two that he looked ridiculous. He looked like Imhotep from The Mummy. He just had gas on his face which caught on fire. Batman was right there and put the fire out. Unless Batman put it out with a brick, Dent’s jaw shouldn’t have been broken and his face should have been burned, not missing! Then even at that…if his face was missing…he wouldn’t be walking around and talking the same. His voice would sound different, etc. Normally i wouldn’t nit-pick something like this, but Christopher Nolan has gone out of his way to make a very realistic world here. We can believe that what we are watching could actually happen – but not Two-Face. Overall though, the Joker was great, the increased role of Lt/Commissioner Gordon was great, and it was a very good movie. Just not as good as it could have been (read: over-hyped and not as good as the amazing movie it followed) [END SPOILERS]

NOT OUT YET:
Aug 1 – The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Nov 21 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Might checking out (or wait for video):

March 14 – Horton Hears a Who!

Saw the last 15 minutes of the movie at a showing in the park. Looked cute. Might get around to seeing more eventually.

June 6 – Kung Fu Panda

Haven’t seen, but plan on it. A friend of mine said he liked it more than Ironman at the time, which says a lot.

June 13 – The Incredible Hulk

Didn’t see. Not planning on it anytime soon. Just looked poor. Never been a big Hulk fan anyway.

June 13 – The Happening

Didn’t see, but looked like it would be good. Still plan on catching on Netflix.

July 11 – Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

Haven’t seen yet, but would like to. Plan on seeing it before it leaves theaters just so i can see the 3D experience.

best selling the future

In Entertainment, Movies on June 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I’ve talked about killer apps here before. Games or movies or whatever that cause someone to adopt a new technology. Good example was “The Matrix” DVD. People bought $200 DVD players (back then) just to watch a $25 movie on the new killer format. Well, apparently we have two killer apps about to hit…or something like that anyway.

The top two best-selling Blu-Ray movies on Amazon.com right now, aren’t even out yet. Amazon is taking pre-orders for Ironman and Batman Begins (which by the way, has been available on HD-DVD for months).
In fact, 9 of the top 20 Blu-Ray’s haven’t come out yet as of today.

I just think that is pretty funny.

put in your pre-orders now

In Entertainment, Movies on May 4, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Just had to take two seconds out to make sure everyone knew that Firefly on Blu-Ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon. No release date yet, but you can bet it will be out before Christmas ’08.

FYI: I hope to continue blogs about the Predators’ past season and make my wish, to-do, and hope-to-see lists – but those may be delayed somewhat since i just picked up Echochrome (amazing), Burnout Paradise (think Tony Hawk Pro Skater with cars), and am playing through Star Wars Lego: The Complete Saga with Christy (again)…besides doing lots of other things in the real world.

It’s over

In Cool Tech, Movies on February 16, 2008 at 6:37 pm

UPDATE: Toshiba did not make the surrender announcement as expected. However, one of the manufacturers of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies has switched to Blu-Ray only production given the shrinking demand for HD-DVD media. Toshiba is holding on, but the end is inevitable. Just a matter of when.

—————————–

Wow. That didn’t take long.

The official truce documents haven’t been signed yet, but it looks like the Blu-Ray doesn’t just have momentum – the battle is over. HD-DVD will be no more very shortly.

After all the major studios switched to (save Universal and Paramount) and Netflix, Blockbuster, Best Buy, and Walmart all went Blu-Ray exclusive…it only took a day or so for Toshiba, the main manufacturer of all things HD-DVD to pull the plug. That pretty much seals the deal. If they stop making HD-DVDs, that just leaves one manufacturer (Hitachi – who made only about a third of the HD-DVD hardware to begin with).

Those wanting to track the state of the battle near the end, check this “state of the division” that lists the basic tech differences, which studios support which format, manufacturers, and other pertinent information that led to the downfall of HD-DVD.

So, everyone go grab your PS3’s and stand-alone players. The war is over!

more bad news for HD-DVD

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on February 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

When Wal-Mart drops you, you are pretty much done.

Summer Movie goodness (and the new Indiana Jones Trailer)

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews, Videos on February 14, 2008 at 8:16 am

Ok, first things first: If you haven’t seen the new trailer for the fourth Indiana Jones movie, watch it now. Here. Immediately.

(if the embed isn’t working – try here)

Ok, now that we have that out of the way…

My thoughts: I don’t like that they open with a re-hashing of the original movies. For those of us who have seen the first movies, i think we know who Indiana Jones is. If they had just shown the clip of the fedora on the ground and the silhouette…that would have been more than enough and a great intro. For those that haven’t seen the previous movies (all two of you) you just had them all spoiled for you.

Anyway…once the trailer gets going, it looks good. It looks like they’ll use a bit of a comedy (i just hope not too much) to address the fact that he’s old.

One thing that i am very disappointed by though: from numerous shots in the trailer, Spielberg and Lucas have obviously recanted their promise to keep computer generated effects to a minimum. I know this is a very short trailer, and those shots could be the extent of the CG in the whole movie – that would certainly be minimal – but i don’t have my hopes up. I guess i’d rather be disappointed now than while watching the movie though.

I am definitely pumped about the movie though. The trailer had a good feel and in terms of cinematography, it looked very similar to Last Crusade. Good stuff.

In other movie news…
It is time for an updated list of movies i’m interested in seeing:

Planning on seeing:
Feb 14th – Jumper (scratch…heard it sucked)
April 18 – The Forbidden Kingdom
May 2 – Iron Man
May 9 – Speed Racer
May 16 – Chronicles of Narnia: Price Caspian
May 22 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
June 20 – Get Smart
June 27 – WALL-E
July 2 – Hancock
July 11 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army
July 18 – The Dark Knight
Aug 1 – The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Nov 21 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Dec 25 May 8, 2009 – Star Trek XI – just got bumped :-(

Might checking out (or wait for video):
March 14 – Horton Hears a Who!
June 6 – Kung Fu Panda
June 13 – The Incredible Hulk
June 13 – The Happening
July 11 – Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Oct 3 – Valkyrie
Dec 10 – X-Files 2

So…looks like i’ll be dropping somewhere in the area of $300 in movie tickets this year. Could be worse i guess. Maybe i’ll hit some matinées.

More Blu-Ray goodness

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on February 11, 2008 at 7:41 am

If all of this wasn’t reason enough to consider the HD-format war over, Netflix just announced that “Netflix, Citing a Clear Signal From the Industry, Will Carry High-Def DVDs Only in Blu-ray Format“. As for its current HD DVD inventory, they said the company “would continue to rent until the discs’ natural life cycle takes them out of circulation in the coming months”. So it sounds like HD-DVD will be going sooner rather than later. (This makes me wonder though – do Netflix discs get abused that badly? Each disc only lasts a few months? Ouch.)

Between Netflix and Blockbuster going Blu-Ray only, Engadget is right – it is going to be darn hard to find HD-DVD to rent, even if they don’t truly go away.

In related HD-format war news:
Here’s the list of movies being released in each format this week. Still have any questions?

Blu-Ray: The Amateurs, Becoming Jane, Gone Baby Gone, No Reservations, Over America In High Definition, Over California In High Definition, We Own the Night

HD DVD: The Amateurs, (and a ‘mature audiences’ movie that will remain nameless)

Total count is now HD-DVD: 333, Blu-Ray: 476

In related Netflix news:
Someone just posted a new plug-in for Windows Media Center that allows you to integrate the Netflix online streaming “Watch Instantly” content. Sweet. This will go perfect with my new MCE setup upstairs :-)

And in other related Netflix news:
Netflix has apparently started a contest (no idea how long ago) for someone to develop a better way to predict what type of movies people will like. The “Recommended For You” section of their site, along with Amazon and other sites is based on algorithms that factor your past viewing habits and ratings. $1mil to a great idea. Anyone have any thoughts?


UPDATE:
More bad news for HD-DVD. Best Buy just announced that they will switch from a neutral stance to recommending Blu-Ray. They will promote Blu-Ray hardware and titles on their website and in their store. They will still carry HD-DVD, but will give preference to Blu-Ray.

meme: me, me, me

In Blog Stuff, Friends, Hockey, Me, Movies on February 10, 2008 at 8:41 am

Christy just tagged me (and i guess Matt would have if i hadn’t been already) so…

Rules: Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Post 7 random or weird facts about yourself on your blog. Tag 7 people and link to them. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

1) I took 7 years to get through college and only took 2 semesters off the whole time (including summer sessions). I attended 3 Universities, changed my major 5 times and minors 7 times. My eventual degree required 120 hours, but I attempted 177 and attained 152 (only actually failed a few, but dropped many). But i did finish, dang it! My degree is a B.S. in Recording Industry Management (Music Business emphasis) with a Marketing minor. I sell printers for Dell as a living right now and don’t use any of it (for my day job anyway). [slaps forehead]

2) Unlike my wife, i have seen Titanic (hated it). What is interesting is that i saw it with a bunch of college buddies (4 of us if i remember correctly). No girls in sight. We went to a midnight show that didn’t get out until after 3:00am. I still don’t know how they talked me into it, but we all regretted it later.

3) I am, technically speaking, a member of the Bar Association. I was part of a special debate-team-kinda thing in Middle School back in Texas and was made a junior member of the Bar Association. I still have the membership card in a box somewhere. Unfortunately this does not afford me better pay at work.

4) I learned to love hockey in Huntsville, AL. I attended the Univ. of Alabama at Huntsville for one semester only (worst 4-5 months of my life). There was absolutely nothing to do for out of town college students in that town if you didn’t like drinking (i could only go to the NASA exhibits so many times). But UAH did have a hockey team, and Huntsville had a minor league team. Attendance was so bad they used to let UAH students in free to both games (frequently back-to-back). I spent many nights watching 4-5 straight hours of hockey (which i had never seen live before) that was mostly filled with lots of scoring and fights. The games frequently finished with 6-8 scores. It wasn’t great hockey, but it was good enough to win me over.

5) My wife Christy and i have been married for about 5.5 years, but we started dating Sept 23rd…i think it was 1994 (maybe 1995). Homecoming was our first date (everyone say “awwwww”). I only really dated two other girls my entire life (though i ‘went out’ with 2 more in middle school). We waited until one of us graduated (as you can guess from #1 above, that was her) to get married (no, we never lived together before that). So we dated for about 8 years, were engaged for a year and half, then got married. If i have my math right, we’ve been a couple for nearly 15 years.

6) I don’t consider myself a fearful person, but i do have one issue that borders on a phobia: bugs. Especially if they surprise me by being where they shouldn’t be. I can handle water, crowds, snakes, small woodland creatures, and can survive heights (though i don’t love them)… but if a bug suddenly shows up on our bedroom wall: Christy gets to handle it.

7) Rote memorization has never been a strong point for me. Always had trouble studying for tests and memorizing Bible versus. But two things i can remember: movies and song lyrics. I can pretty much recite every line in three Star Wars movies, any Pixar movie, most of the Indiana Jones trilogy, and the movie version of Much Ado About Nothing…and tons of other movies – if i am watching them. I can lip-sync (or speak) right along with them. Exact timing of the lines and everything. Same with most songs: if i listen to it more than a few times and like it, i’ll pick up lyrics very easily (usually) and can sing along with it later. But, if you asked me to just write out the script of lyrics on a sheet of paper from memory i’d be hurting for all but a few movies and songs.

Ok. That’s it.

I guess i’ll go try to tag a couple of people.

is the format war over?

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, History/Politics, Movies on February 3, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Personally, i think it is fairly safe to call it. At ‘worst’ we might end up with a truce and both formats will survive in some capacity, but i don’t think it’ll even come to that. Sony finally beat the Betamax (and mini-disc, ATRAC, memory sticks, Super Audio, and UMD among many others…) curse and won a format war.

Blu-Ray is here to stay.

Blu-Ray had a huge boost in market share after Christmas, and still routinely controls 60%-plus of the high-def movie market week after week. Since the inception of both formats, Blu-Ray controls 64% of the market, and has controlled all 10 spots on the Nielsen VideoScan list of top titles every week since Christmas. It is also worth noting that many HD-DVD movies come bundled with the standard DVD as well, so the HD-DVD numbers may be given a boost by customers buying those copies for the standard DVD’s, not the high-def format.

I even did a little research for ya. Here are a few interesting fact nuggets that lead me to believe in HD-DVD demise:

Getting a handle on which studios are lined up fully in which camp would be tough, especially given the distribution rights for different territories, etc. However, I think one of the more important aspects of a format war is the ever-important Killer App.

Killer Apps for a movie format would of course, be movies. So, let’s make a short list of movies or series with a major cult following that might compel someone to purchase a player for either format (in no particular order):

HD-DVD:

Bourne Trilogy
Serentiy
Dune
The Mummy
Shrek
Star Trek (movies and TV shows)
Battlestar Gallactica (TV show)
Heros (TV show)
Braveheart

Blu-Ray:

Pixar Movies (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, etc)
Stargate (movie and TV shows)
Pirates of the Caribbean
X-Men
Lost (TV show)
James Bond (many not yet released)
Disney Animated Features (many not yet released)
Lord of the Rings (not yet released)

Both:

Monty Python
The Matrix Trilogy
Harry Potter
Bladerunner
Terminator
Superman Returns

Still undecided:

Star Wars
Indiana Jones
Firefly

So…spot anything you can’t live without?

One of the other early deciding factors has been who is buying these players. It would be all well and good if all ABC sitcoms from the 1990’s were released on one format or another, but if those people don’t drive early adopter sales, then it won’t matter.

Which brings us to another point: HD-DVD has been pushing massive price cuts for players and media. However, mass-consumer demand is still for normal DVDs. The only customers buying high-def format movies are early adopters and videophiles. Not the types that generally react well to red-tag sales and feature stripped players for low prices.

As of Jan 28th, there were 381 HD-DVD titles compared to 459 Blu-Ray titles available. Blu-Ray also adds more each week on average, and they tend to be more popular and “a-list” titles. Here’s the “new release” list for the month of January as an example:

Blu-Ray:

  • Shoot ‘Em Up (New Line)
  • War (Lionsgate)
  • Resident Evil (Sony)
  • Resident Evil Trilogy (Sony)
  • Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (Lionsgate)
  • Con Air (Buena Vista)
  • Dragon Wars (Sony)
  • Killing Machine/Shogun’s Ninja (BCI)
  • Man on Fire (Fox)
  • Night of the Werewolf/Vengeance of the Zombies (BCI)
  • The Rock (Buena Vista)
  • Sister Street Fighter/Sister Street Fighter 2 (BCI)
  • Sunshine (Fox)
  • Breaker Morant (Image)
  • Good Luck Chuck (Lionsgate)
  • Mr. Woodcock (New Line)
  • Suburban Girl (Image)
  • Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God…(Starz)
  • The Game Plan (Walt Disney)
  • Saw IV (Lionsgate)
  • Daddy Day Camp (Sony)
  • Damages: The Complete First Season (Sony)
  • The Invasion (Warner)
  • Justin Timberlake: Live at Madison Square Garden (Sony BMG)
  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Sony)

HD-DVD:

  • Mobsters (Universal)
  • The Pianist (Universal)
  • White Noise (Universal)
  • White Noise 2: The Light (Universal)
  • Zodiac: Director’s Cut (Paramount)
  • The Ten (City Lights)
  • Channels (Vanguard Cinema)
  • Method Man: Live from the Sunset Strip (Music Distribution)
  • Strauss: Die Fledermaus (Opus Arte)

Both:

  • Dispatch: Zimbabwe – Live at Madison Square Garden (WMG)
  • King of California (First Look)

So. I’ve got my PS3 and am firmly in the Blu-Ray camp now. Pixar was my killer app, but Stargate, the 5th Element, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter sure didn’t hurt. Cars alone is worth the investment for me. If you haven’t seen it in HD yet, let me know and i’ll arrange a time for you to come over and watch it. It will blow. your. mind. Just make sure you put in a fresh set of contacts or clean your glasses well before you come over.

The Hobbit movie is on!

In Entertainment, Movies on December 18, 2007 at 11:10 am

Breaking news… The Hobbit, long delayed thanks to legal fighting between Peter Jackson and New Line, is on! And it’s going to be two movies!

For the quick backstory: Peter Jackson sued New Line saying that he was underpaid for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. New Line had the exclusive rights to produce a movie based on the books. Tolkien’s family had to approve any filmmaker chosen to head the project. They wanted Peter Jackson. Thus, a three-way lockdown. Trick was, New Line’s rights to the books were going to expire soon. So if they didn’t get it made, they would lose the contract and the Tolkien family could re-bid the rights (which would be worth a fortune thanks to the success of the LOTR).

But it looks like Jackson and New Line have made up (surprise) so the movie can go forward. They are saying that it is going to be “the Hobbit and a sequel”…i can only assume that means they are splitting the book into two parts. If they are doing the Hobbit and then going to do the Silmarillion as movie…not sure that would really work :-)

Production is supposed to start “as soon as possible” which means the folks at WETA are probably already working on stuff, and Peter Jackson will start in full-time once he wraps up The Lovely Bones and does whatever he has to do as producer for Tintin, District 9, and the Halo movie (if it ever gets made).

For those not familiar, the only characters in common between the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are the main character, Bilbo Baggins (though he is much younger), Gandolf the Grey, and Golum. Andy Serkis will of course be back to play Golum as a CG character again, while Ian McKellen is assumed to be returning as Gandolf (though he’ll be 71 by the time the first movie comes out). Bilbo was played in the last movie by Ian Holm, and while i loved his part, and there is always the possibility of fabulous de-aging technology, it is assumed that Bilbo will be re-cast. I’d really love it if they could somehow let Ian Holm play the character. Provide a great sense of continuity…but i just don’t see it happening. I just hope they don’t try to use Elijah Wood and change his look. LOTR survived with him as Frodo, but… yeah, let’s not go there.

communal viewing

In Christy, Entertainment, Me, Movies on December 11, 2007 at 7:35 am

We own lots of DVDs. Not nearly as many as some people i’m sure, but we have quite a bit. Not just movies, but a lot of TV shows too. We also subscribe to Netflix, which in addition to the DVD’s through the mail we get, allows us to instantly stream movies over the web (from a rather limited selection). We also frequent Hulu and other online content sources. In light of all of this, we do not have cable. No need. More than enough entertainment and not enough time in the day as it is. The only TV show we’re huge fans of and “have” to watch is Stargate and we just go over to a friend’s house every Friday for that (which is more fun anyway)… So, that’s your background.

I want to continue my process of ripping content from DVDs on to our big network drive. Have any and all of our media instantly accessible. Then my goal is to get a PC hooked up to the HDTV upstairs (already have one driving the projector-home theater downstairs) and just be in media heaven. Never have to watch “TV” again outside of live sporting events.

I love all this. My wife however, does not love it as much.

She’s fine with me ripping the content, and fine with watching shows occasionally and we watch movies frequently. But she still insists on occasionally watching TV. We have a good ‘ol set of rabbit ears and she’ll end up watching re-runs of sitcoms on fuzzy broadcast TV with…with… commercials included. I don’t understand this. She tries to explain it as wanting a “communal viewing experience”. She likes knowing that there are thousands (if not hundreds) of other people watching the same thing she is at the same time. I comprehend the facts of that statement, but it isn’t something I’ve ever felt compelled to partake in myself. What I really don’t get is how she’d often rather watch the fuzzy, broadcast, commercial filled version of Scrubs than just boot up the PC and watch the near-commercial-free version that is much higher quality on Hulu. I would way rather have a nice, clear, perfect version of my entertainment, starting and stopping when I darn well please, than have to be on someone else’s schedule for an inferior product. (wow, that sounded more harsh than I meant…)

But now it looks like there is something for both of us.

According to Cinematical, the new Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix HD-DVD allows for “Live Community Screening”. Basically if you have a web-connected HD-DVD drive (which most allow for), when you hit play under this feature the movie doesn’t start immediately. Playback is controlled by a single “host” user, who initiates the invitation-only viewing, and can control the film by pausing and playing the feature on everyone else’s machines. Participants can also text between their remote devices, creating a virtual “live chat” environment while they watch. High quality, great presentation, but the knowledge that someone else in who-knows-where is laughing at Harry and Ron at exactly the same time you are is still present.

Kinda cool…I guess. This is a strange, strange world we live in.

Oh – and in related news: Warner Brothers is backing off HD-DVD and it looks like the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD lines are going in favor of Blu-Ray. The HD-DVD version of Order of the Phoenix also comes bundled with a standard DVD, and for the first time Harry Potter movies (or any Warner Brohters movie as far as i know) is being pressed to Blu-Ray as well (I don’t know of Blu-Ray’ers get the above mentioned “communal experience” though). Actually, it looks like they are Blu-Raying all the Harry Potters.

hulu review

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews, Videos on November 21, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Last night I was finally granted access to the semi-public beta of the new online video-on-demand service, Hulu. There have been many other reviews of this service already, but I just wanted to throw my two cents in, since I think that’s one of the reasons I was granted the beta.

For those not familiar with Hulu, it is a joint venture between Universal (NBC) and News Corp (FOX), so a large number of shows that belong to those networks is available, and a few full length movies to boot. There is even speculation that Warner Brothers TV will be adding it’s shows to the fold (maybe i can finally catch up on Smallville). It works pretty much the same as ABC’s and NBC’s websites when it comes to streaming existing shows. They are occasionally interrupted by commercials, and the quality of the image depends on your internet speed.

First: Huge advantage to Hulu over other similar sites: it works in Firefox! I’m not sure, but I would assume it also works for Apple users. This is huge for me personally, and I think gives it a big leg up. Being browser agnostic means just that many fewer people that have a frustrating experience with streaming media sites that can be finicky at times.

The other awesome thing about Hulu you have to notice right away is the HUGE and I mean MASSIVE amount of content it has compared to other sites. My hope is that this is just the tip of the beta ice berg. They already have not only many full episodes from current running shows on NBC and FOX, but also a huge catalog of older shows. Simon and Simon? I forgot that show even existed. Remington Steele. Classic. Mary Tyler Moore, The A-Team, Airwolf, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, …on and on and on. It isn’t every episode by a long shot, but some of the shows go back pretty far.

And it’s not just TV shows – there are a few full-length movies on here too. Master and Commander among others right now. Curiously, the TV shows are in wide-screen high-def were applicable, but the movies are 4:3 pan-and-scan and edited for content – clearly the ‘old’ TV versions, which I find curious.

No doubt though, with this amount of content available, Christy and I are thinking about cancelling Netflix and going straight to the local library and Hulu for our entertainment for a while.

The ads were also pretty tolerable. Not the same ones over and over and over again the way some of the other VOD services can be, and the always-up ad banners aren’t an issue as long as you make the video full-screen, which is simple enough. I really don’t know why anyone would watch anything on here and not have it full-screen. Quality was also very good. We watched a few episodes on our projector and everything looked great. At least as good as SD cable if not better.

If you want to sign up for the beta yourself, you can at www.hulu.com, but I think it will be open for everyone by the time you get access to it at this point (it took them 3 weeks to process my beta application). When I get back home, I’ll put a full listing of the shows currently available up here for reference (Hulu, like most streaming media sites, is blocked at work for me).

Firefly Cast: Where are they now?

In Entertainment, Movies on November 4, 2007 at 10:12 am

OK, i’m not actually going to give you an update on the whole cast. This is mostly just an update on one i just heard some news on. But first i’ll give you a few other quick notes:

  • Nathon Fillon (Capt Reynolds) was on another cool new show (i heard it was cool, never watched) that got canceled called “Drive”. Now he’s been on a few Deserate Housewives episodes – let’s hope his cancel curse continues just one show longer, then the guy picks up a winner. He’s great.
  • Alan Tuduk (Wash) is filming a new “TV pilot” for Barry Sonnenfeld (the guy that did Men In Black) that also stars Kurtwood Smith (who has been in absolutely everything). Could be interesting.
  • Of course, Jewel Staite (Kaylee) is now a regular on Stargate: Atlantis as the new doctor (no, not that ‘new doctor‘). Liking her work there so far, but i have to say: they have her in the show as an American, but her Canadian accent is thicker than most hockey players, much less David Hewitt (Dr McKay, who is supposed to be Canadian) since he’s actually from the UK. They need to at least establish that she is from Minnesota (like Col O’Neill) quickly, cause it’s just getting distracting.

Anyway…this is mostly an update on news i just heard about Summer Glau (River). She is apparently set to play a Terminator…on TV. Gonna be a great role for her. She apparently gets to play a semi-love interest and continue to kick butt at the same time. The show takes place after the events in teh 2nd movie. I still haven’t seen any of the Terminator movies (i know, i suck…they are in my Netflix queue though!) so i can’t weigh in on what i think the new show will be like, but it is interesting none the less. Glau will play the Terminator sent to protect everyone (read: good guys). I’m curious if this will even attempt to be a special effects and ‘splosion heavy show like the movies, or a more “character driven” engagement. I know Summer could pull off either, but not sure about the other cast or the budget the studio has lined up. So don’t get your hopes up, the show is on Fox which means there is a 85% chance it will be awesome, and a 95% chance it will get canned before they finish shooting the first season.

strike video

In Entertainment, Funny, Movies, Videos on October 31, 2007 at 9:08 pm

I don’t even remember if i’ve written about the impending double-strike on my blog before. Basically i’ve been following the news over the past couple of months via Cinematical regarding the Writer’s Guild strike (that started today) and a possible/probably director and actors guild strikes looming early next year. If you don’t know anything about it…just know that most entertainment as we know it is probably going to grind to a halt, or get really sloppy as studios rush things through production to avoid the total blackout.

Anyway…

Point of that is to then show you this video. Very funny. Pay attention to details.

Killer App

In Cool Tech, Movies on August 26, 2007 at 10:17 am

For those that are unfamiliar with the concept of a Killer App, it is pretty easy. Essentially it is any application/use of a new technology that makes that technology more desirable. This is most commonly used when describing video games and software. Earlier versions of Windows could be described as killer apps because when they came out, everyone went out and upgraded their computers so they could run the latest version. Conversely, Windows Vista has certainly not been a killer app because it did not drive hardware sales and was not seen as necessary.

I have twice before experienced the killer app. Once was when Half-Life 2 came out. I needed a video card (and thus computer) upgrade to be able to really run it the way it was intended. Before that however, i was part of a much more widespread killer app experience…

When DVD’s first came out, adoption rates weren’t too great. The new format certainly looked good, but sloppy digital transfers and a lack of bonus content (which no one missed because they’d never seen it before) made DVD’s just seem like really expensive VHS. Why bother?

Until The Matrix.

That DVD was so loaded with cool features and used the new technology so well that people had to buy DVD players ($250+ at the time) just so they could watch a $30 DVD. I for one owned the Matrix DVD a good 3 or 4 months before i even owned a DVD player.

The move to HD/BluRay DVD’s has been similar. Certainly the picture is better, but no killer app has come along to compel me (or much of the population) to shell out the extra cash for the players. But that is about to change: Hot on the heals of announcing the Pixar Shorts collection, Disney just announced that Cars comes out in Blu-Ray format on Nov 6th as well.

I am saving my pennies now.
(And dropping hints for Christmas if anyone’s listening).

Pixar in HD – coming soon!

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on August 24, 2007 at 7:00 pm

Well, you’ve heard me talk about it and hope for it before.
It is here at last…sorta.

Pixar is going to release a collection of its short films on Blu-Ray. Release date Nov 6th. $24.49 on Amazon.

That seals it. If Gran Turismo 5 wasn’t enough (and my back catelog of PS1 and PS2 games), we are getting a PS3. Maybe not this Christmas, maybe not in a year, but sometime. Sometime soon. I really feel silly with how excited i am about this.

The regular DVD description on Amazon says this is “Volume 1″ but it looks like it will be (almost) all shorts to this point. They are just smart enough to know there will be more in the future so they just called this one “Volume 1″. It will have everything from The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. (which was actually done under Lucasfilm…making this the first Lucasfilm property to be released on HD format) all the way to Lifted. Only things not included will be the shorts they did for Sesame Street (“Light & Heavy” and “Surprise”). For a list of their short films (and to watch some of them) check here. Looks like commentaries and a featurette or two will be included as well.

I’m curious which version of Knick Knack will be included…the original version from way-back-when had a much more “buxom” version of the mermaid figurine than the one released on regular DVD a while back. I’m hoping they go more Pixar archivist and include both, not Disney whitewash and just include the new version.

Nothing mentioning Blu-Ray only content. Man i hope this is full 1080p. I can’t imagine it not being. And i can’t wait until they release the full length movies. The Blu-Ray version is just $2 more than the standard DVD.

I’m not surprised that Disney/Pixar is going Blu-Ray now that i think about it. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, funded and still owns a large stake in Pixar. Pixar essentially owns Disney now. HD-DVD is Microsoft’s baby… so Disney goes Blu-Ray. Gotta love it.

In format-war related news: I’m really not sure why Paramount just decided to go from releasing in both formats to releasing HD-DVD only. Everyone i know has said Blu-Ray is the superior format, and thanks to the PS3, there are more players out there (even if half the people that have PS3’s don’t know they play Blu-Rays), and Blockbuster is going Blu-Ray only. I still think that eventually all players will just play both formats, but if i had to pick a ‘winner’ it would be Blu-Ray at this point.

Oh – in Pixar related news: The teaser site for BuyNLarge (the mega-corporation from the upcoming Pixar movie Wall-E) has been updated. Check it out. Much fun.

Random Updates 2

In Blog Stuff, Movies, Sports, Videos on August 20, 2007 at 10:40 am

Forgot a couple of things in my previous post…

Fantasy Sports
I’m going to start up another just-for-fun Fantasy Hockey league this year. I assume my awesome Hockey Wife will participate. Probably several guys from work too. Anyone else? No cash, just for fun and bragging rights. I don’t know much about the league beyond the Predators, and this is my way of making myself know what else is going on. I’ll probably also run a no-cash basketball league, and end up signing up for someone elses football league. We’ll see. If you’re interested in hockey or basketball, comment here or drop me an email.


Movie stuff…
Cinematical, the movie version of Engaget, had news last week of The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian. That’s right. A prequel of a prequel of a sequel of a remake. I loved the Mummy and Mummy Returns, but never saw The Scorpion King. Probably get around to it one of these days. I am very excited about them doing a 3rd Mummy movie with Brendan Frasier (with Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh!). Too bad they couldn’t get Rachel Weisz to come back to play Evelyn O’Connell. I guess she’s too dramatic to do horror/comedy now.


Online Videos
Up until now i’ve been using Google Video for posting all my videos of friends, etc. It was easy to use, etc. But i’m really becoming unsatisfied with the features and quality.

I was going to switch over to Vimeo, but then i heard that Flickr is going to start doing videos. that would be great of course. I could put the pictures and videos from events all together that way. Anyone else heard more about Flickr and what kind of quality/features the video service would offer? Extra charge beyond pro accounts? Or should i just start uploading everything to Vimeo?

(I was going to ask this question last night on Facebook Questions, but it was down. Doh!)


Ok… i think that’s it.
If not…i’ll…post again i guess.
That’s how this works huh?

random updates

In Christy, Hockey, Me, Movies, Sports, Work on August 20, 2007 at 9:32 am

I feel like i’ve been so poor in blogging lately. Not that i’m one of those people that feels i have to blog everyday. I know the masses of you that hang on my every word can live without hearing from me for a few days. No – i’m missing blogging because i have so much i wanted to blog about but have been to busy with all of said things to actually get around to doing it.

So…let’s play a little catch-up:


New Business Blog
Coming out of Barcamp, Christy and i talked a lot about what she/we’re doing with Ghia. Among other things, i’m going to start blogging on the Ghia corporate blog. First entry: here!

I’m really excited about how the business is doing so far, and looking forward to pushing it further. As much as i ragged some of the presenters at Barcamp in my last post, i really did learn a lot. Christy’s working on our Google Local entry and we’re thinking of doing a site re-design soon. Christy has done an amazing job with the business so far, but she’s been working largely by herself. I’m pumped about getting more involved and getting the rust off my web and marketing skills.

We already spent some of yesterday shooting pics for the new inventory we got in last week. Check for it on the site soon!


Blockbuster Trade
Just a couple of weeks ago i posted about how happy i was that Blockbuster had bought MovieLink. I was already very happy with the value we were getting with Blockbuster Online (we locked ourselves into a great rate many months ago) and i was looking forward to them adding the downloadble movie features.

Well, last Friday i got an email from Blockbuster titled something along the lines of “Changes to your Blockbuster Account”. I was excited. I was ready to open it up and find out that they were going to give us the option to do downloadable movies instead of in-store exchanges, or better yet both. Um….no. Nothing about downloadable movies was mentioned, but they did explain that my previous plan of 7 movies (4 in store, 3 in the mail) per month for $7.99 was being discontinued (in reality they stopped offering this to new subscribers months ago) and i would have to choose another plan. The offer they made instead was 4 movies (2 in-store, 2 in the mail) for $7.99 – what a deal! Same price, 40% fewer movies!

So half out of looking for a better deal, and half out of anger/spite, we switched to Netflix this weekend. Just after i’d starting swapping recommendations and stuff with my sister and my friend Amber on Blockbuster. Oh well. Now we get to find friends that have Netflix. Anyone? Click here to set us up as friends on Netflix.


Predators and the City
There has also been a lot going on in the world of the Predators.
For more reading i advise the Forechecker. He continues his marvelous assessment of the situation.

Essentially the local ownership group is asking the Metro government for $3 million more per year (according to them this is being required by their creditors) and a guarantee of 14,000 in paid attendance (so the team doesn’t lose on league revenue sharing). In exchange they are offering to donate the first $3 million in profits every year (if/when there are any) to local charities and groups, and are promising to take fuller advantage of the Sommet Center as a facility and increase the number of events (tax generating events) held there. Sounds fair enough to me. Much ado made out of very little last week, i think.

random musings

In Me, Movies, Pictures on August 9, 2007 at 6:57 am

Movies
I’m happy to hear that Blockbuster just bought out Movielink. Christy and i subscribe to Blockbuster online (i dig the cheaper rates we got, plus the games we can rent in-store, not just movies). This will hopefully just add to the goodness. I wonder if we’ll have to choose between an mail+store package or a mail+online package, or if they will just crush Netflix with a wonderful mail+store+online package. I can hope. No news so far.

Of course, what i’m really waiting for is an online HD movie service so i don’t have to shell out cash for a BluRay or HD DVD player that may or may not be worth anything in a few years. Just skip it all and download the straight to my PC, which is what i use for all my media anyway. I’d just rip any DVD i own to my network share anyway.


Dental Talk
I got my teeth cleaned earlier this week (actually, i clean them on a daily basis, but i got them professionally cleaned at a dentist office this week). Why is it that dental hygienists (the ones that actually clean your teeth) are insanely talkative. I had a more complex conversation and was asked more questions and given more advice during my cleaning than i have in the last 5 haircuts combined.

I’m not much for chit-chat, but i don’t mind a little banter during my service calls…but at the dentist? Have they ever noticed it is a little difficult to hold on a conversation when you keep sticking things in my mouth…namely…their hands? Conversely, have they noticed it is harder to clean my teeth while i’m talking?

I would have been in and out of there waaaay faster if she’d just let me watch the cool TV they have positioned above my head through the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, my dentist is really good, and the hygienist was very good at what mattered. Clean teeth, no pain, good stuff. But man, she was chatty.


Famous Pictures
I’m still waiting for the AP to call. My pictures have now been used in tourist guides for Nashville, two for a calendar for East Nashville, posts on AOL’s sports page, and now a few have been personally requested by Andrea Conte (millionaire) and her husband…who happens to be the Governor of Tennessee.

The funny thing is that the pictures that have been chosen are, of course, not my favorites. I’d love someone to use something like this picture, or this one, or the one shown here to the right. For that matter, any shots in either of these two sets: Artsy and My Favs. But alas, these haven’t been what they are looking for.

I don’t flatter myself to be the photographer that Chris Wage is…or dozens of other people for that matter. But i’m glad that some appreciation is being shown. I need to get used to carrying my camera around with me more. When i first got it, i carried it everywhere with me “just in case”. I need to get back in that habit.


Biking in Nashville
A short message to the people who’ve been complaining about biking issues in East Nashville.
  1. If you want me to respect you and yield to bikers as equals on the road when i’m in my car – then obey the freaking rules of the road! You can’t just pull past me at an intersection while i’m at a red light, glance both ways, and run the red light because it’s clear. If you’re on the road, obey the rules. If you’re not going to, then get on the sidewalk and use the zebra crossing.
  2. As for the concerns about people parking in the bike lanes along Eastland: if you want the police to ticket people for parking in the bike lane, you’ll probably have better luck if you can first convince the police to not park there themselves. The picture at the right was taken at the East Nashville “Night out against Crime”. Nice.

bad movies

In Christy, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 26, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Christy and i signed up for a Blockbuster online account a while back (for now it really is a better deal than Netflix) and have enjoyed being able to watch all sorts of movies we had passed up in theaters but wanted to get around to, etc.

We found out that many of those movies were great – like Mirrormask, Unbreakable, The Prestige, and Good Night and Good Luck (some we ended up buying).

But we’ve also seen a whole lot of real stinkers. Die Another Day, The Last Mimzy, Men in Black II, The Fantastic Four, etc.

I’m beginning to wonder if we should re-think our list and take off movies that we didn’t see because they didn’t look that great, and start going for more movies that we don’t know much about or couldn’t get around to. For instance, Christy and i (yes, her too) have really gotten in to Jackie Chan movies (plus some Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). I think we may explore more movies in those genres, or more artsy films like Mirrormask (City of Lost Children is on the list already).

We’ll also leave on many classics that we haven’t seen (or haven’t seen in a long time) like The Godfather (i’ve seen it, Christy hasn’t) and Terminator, etc. Those will stay on the list.

But i think Firewall, Jurassic Park III, and Daredevil are gonna get taken off. Or at least bumped waaaay down the list. If we see much more junk like we’ve been seeing – i agree with Christy – we’ll go nuts.


While i’m on the topic…does anyone know how to grab an RSS stream of our Blockbuster Online queue? I know Netflix provides such a service, but i can’t find a way to do it with Blockbuster. It’d be fun to post on my sidebar, but i haven’t figured out how.

this scares me

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 24, 2007 at 2:34 pm

I loved Batman Begins.
Now, i wasn’t one of those people that hated the earlier Batman movies. Batman and Robin was bad, but the others were at least moderately entertaining. However, i did love the dark-realism treatment of the Dark Knight’s story that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale brought to life.

But i’m not super excited about the new photos Warner Brothers just released for the next iteration of Batman movies.

The new suit looks good. Not that different. Very cool.

The new bike…not so much…looks goofy.

The shot they released of Heath Ledger as the Joker disturbs me though. As in: i think i’m going to have nightmares tonight. I am sure that’s what they are going for, but this may be over-the-edge-dark if they follow through on what this shot looks like.

I’ll of course wait to see trailers and such to decide if it goes on my list, but as of right now, i’m only about 50/50 on it.

more tv movies

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 18, 2007 at 7:20 am

I hope they have fun with this.
Not too much. Doesn’t need to be a parody, but i just hope they don’t go all Miami Vice on it. I didn’t even seen MV, but it just…yeah. I hope they make it more like the Transformers was than like Miami Vice.
I wonder if a MacGuyver or A-Team movie can be far behind? Or GI-Joe?
I know that A-Team (with Mel Gibson as Hannibal) was rumored for a long time, and looks like it might be in production now, though no cast has been announced. GI-Joe has been an off again on again idea for a while. Good times.

Update: Matt pointed out, that no, it is not a Camero. We got over Bumblebee being a Camero instead of a Beetle…so maybe KIT will be a Beetle when the movie actually comes out?

x-files weird

In Christy, Entertainment, Me, Movies on July 16, 2007 at 10:40 am

Check this out:

I have watched maybe 10-12 episodes of the X-Files in my life. I have seen the movie, thought it was cool, and moved on.

But i had an X-files dream last night. I was Mulder, Christy was Scully. I don’t remember much more than that.

Then i find this news story published this morning. New X-Files movie being planned.

Cue the creepy music.

judge a book (by its) cover

In Christy, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 15, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Well, my wife is pretty into Harry Potter. I have to admit i’ve gotten into it a bit too. Some friends let us borrow the movies and i caught up last spring. Then we just went to see the latest movie. Very very good. (My review: Good special effects in the beginning, bad effects in the middle, great effects at the end…the plot roughly follows).

Now i am going to start listening through the unabridged audio books (so i can more intelligently argue some points of debate with my wife) thanks to the Nashville Public Library system, and just pre-ordered the new book for Christy.

I said it’d never happen, but i guess we’re fans.

But now i wish i had ordered Christy’s copy to be shipped from the UK. Apparently they get a better version there. First, their version has the original UK English intact (the US version is re-edited for US kids vocabulary), but mostly, they have a way cooler cover. I’m sorry, there is just no comparison. What’s up with that?

This is the US cover.
(click to enlarge)

I know the US versions have had this same cover style for a while, but it…well…stinks. I just think it looks dumb. It doesn’t match the feel of the stories that they hold inside. Looks more like a dark Dr. Seuss or something. Too melodramatic and stylized without being fun looking. It either needs to be creepy or fun. This fails at both.

These are the UK covers – plural.
(click to enlarge)

In Europe and Asia though, they get two covers: A kids cover, and an ‘adult’ cover. I find both of these a far better option than what we get in the US. The ‘adult’ cover in particular is way cooler, spookier, and generally more mysterious. And yes, it reminds me of cover of the book in The Neverending Story, so that probably helps. The kids version also seems a better fit somehow. Of course, from looking at the UK kids version, this is apparently going to be a cross-over with Stargate.

A quick skim of amazon.co.uk makes it look like they have only been doing the dual-covers for the last two books. Before that, they all followed the kids-cover style, but it was still far better than the US versions. Ok, except the first one. Aside from the different title, that cover does look pretty lame. But i guess at that point it really was more of a kids book.

Oh well. I guess in reality i would like all books to either be a pocket-size paperback or a leather-bound library volume. Can anyone hook me up with one of those yet?

pixar in hd?

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on July 11, 2007 at 10:53 am

At Microsoft’s E3 keynote last night they announced that more movies will be available on XBox Live in HD – including “Disney Movies”.

So – my questions:

  1. Are Pixar movies included?
  2. Will they be available in HD on iTunes or any other services or is this exclusive?
  3. Will they release them on HD DVD or Blueray?

Only other question is that if the answer to (1) is yes but (2) and (3) is no, then how long until i get an XBox 360?

transformers

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on July 5, 2007 at 10:05 am

Time for a summer movie update.

So far i’ve missed one of the movies on my list for this summer, but i’ve seen most of them. I’d also have to say that having seen the trailers, Rush Hour 3 is probably off my “must” list and on to “optional”, while the Simpsons Movie may be on to my “must” list now. Underdog is off the list entirely. So… new list…

Movies i am for sure going to check out:
May 4th – Spiderman 3 (3.5 out of 5)
May 25th – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (4 out of 5)
June 8th – Ocean’s Thirteen (didn’t see)
June 29th – Ratatouille (4.5 out of 5)
July 4th – Transformers (3 out of 5)
July 13th – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
July 27th – The Simpsons Movie
August 17th – Fanboys

Others of note that i am going to wait to rent or borrow:
May 18th – Shrek the 3rd (didn’t see)
June 15th – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (didn’t see)
June 22nd – Evan Almighty (didn’t see)
June 29th – Live Free or Die Hard (not yet)
August 3rd – The Bourne Ultimatum
August 10th – Rush Hour 3
August 17th – The Invasion



Anyway – now to my review of Transformers.
My expectations were pretty much met for this one, which isn’t necessarily a great thing.

It was Michael Bay. Pure and simple. As my good friend Matt said – he is basically an old-time b-movie action director on a big budget. Lots and lots of ‘spolsions, little character development outside of the one main hero (Sam), and an almost complete disregard for the intelligence of his audience.

At a high level, the plot was actually better than i had hoped. It was mostly believable, reasonably true to the original show, and the different groups all acted according to plausible motivation. Nothing completely random happened and there were no gaping holes.

At a lower level however, the dialogue and minor plot elements were poorly executed. The writing was slightly better than the first Fantastic Four movie, but that isn’t saying much. There was more cussing than needed, though not a ton. But most of it felt very forced, like a middle-schooler on the playground trying to sound tough. Several weak minor plot elements including things like “they are using a signal to hack our network” – as though playing a sound-file really loud near a computer automatically opens up all encryption. Oh – and all government computers are apparently connected to one massive server and are connected through a “hard line”. Lots of little science mis-steps too, like a craft leaving the earth’s atmosphere showing heat and flame bouncing off a shield (which only actually happens when items enter the atmosphere, not leave). But this isn’t an educational documentary, so all that can be overlooked. Barely.

I’d say my main real disappointment and complaint about the movie was the characters. In the TV show the Transformers all had very unique personalities. We got a very very small glimpse of that in the Autobots, but got to see none of that in the Decepticons. Basically the only time any of the Transformers were on screen they were shooting something or fighting, not standing around exchanging witty banter or arguing the way they did in the shows.

My only other complaint would be that there was lots of collateral damage to innocent bystanders that was treated very casually. I’d guess the death toll in the movie to be somewhere in the 5,000 area minimum (though you probably only see about 500 deaths on screen), but the whole time everyone was worried about averting an impending disaster, never acknowledging that tons of people were dead and dying already.

But if you can get passed elements like that – and for a movie like this you’d better – it was actually pretty good. The action sequences were excellent. Very fast paced, but they also slowed down to give a ‘bullet time’ look at the fighting which really showed off the Transformers and their abilities. Plenty of chances to see them actually transform – which i was afraid would be to rare. Lots of military hardware, just shy of being silly – just enough to be really, really cool.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the product placement didn’t get in the way too much. Don’t get me wrong – there is a TON of it. But it was very subtle – kinda. It didn’t get in the way of enjoying it, but everything in this movie had a logo. Besides the whole movie being a Hasbro ad, all the cars/trucks were GM (a change from the mix of VW, Porche, Mack, etc from the originals) but i got over that pretty quickly. Sam’s favorite band is apparently The Strokes, the US military exclusively uses HP computers and Logitech webcams, etc. What was amazing though is after the movie i quizzed my friends…what was the vending machine in the last scene (Mountain Dew) – what was the box that the guy was holding on the sidewalk (X-Box 360), etc. We could all name what we had seen, even though we didn’t notice it at the time. Which is, of course, exactly what they were going for.

As for the movie experience, this was at the ‘other’ old theater in the Rivergate area. All digital picture, etc. Not quite as nice in the lobby and such as where we saw Ratatouille, but it was good enough. Good sound balance, great picture – mostly. There was one part of the movie where there are long sequences of over-exposure – basically most of the screen is bright white. During those scenes, i could see something on the screen. Not sure if it was dirt or what. It was in kind of a pattern of lines, and i almost wonder if it was the speaker or some sort of support behind the screen. I’d be curious to see if anyone else saw that at their theaters too. 90% of movies wouldn’t have made me notice this, but the extended bright-white made it show up. Didn’t ruin it for me though. I have to wonder how that bright white scene would look on film though. Probably a great example of how digital is better – no scratches or dust which i’m sure would show up on a film showing of the same scene.

So…if you like action movies and are looking for a shallow, entertaining movie, it is worth checking out, and unless you have a $10k home theater system, you need to see it in a digital theater. Coming from a guy that has a theater room with digital projector with 8 foot screen – i’d recommend that as a minimum requirement for seeing a movie like this. This movie is big in every possible way.

Overall, good flick. I would not say that this was a remake of the TV show, didn’t feel like it at all. But it was an enjoyable movie.

indiana jones 4

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies, Pictures on July 3, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Yes, for those that haven’t already heard, they are finally getting around to making Indiana Jones 4. If you want to read the whole saga of how many times they have tried to make this movie (including M. Night Shyamalan writing a script that was rejected), read the Wikipedia entry here. For those interested in more: Rumor site here. Official site here.

Anyway, they finally settled on a script and just started filming a few weeks ago down in New Mexico. Video from the set here and here. Looks like it will have a strong cast, and with Spielberg and Lucas finally finding one another again, plus the fact that we have assurances from numerous sources that there will be no CGI used in this movie (the effects will all be traditional in-camera effects to mesh with the other movies), it may be possible for this movie to be really solid. (How great would it have been if George Lucas had done that with Star Wars…)

Of course, the one major question everyone has is: Can Harrison Ford pull off an action movie at the age of 65. Well, the answer is: he doesn’t have to. Stuntmen will cover all the action sequences. And for the close-ups and dramatic portions…

Well, this is what Harrison looks like now:
Not too bad. Plenty of make-up i’m sure.

But better yet…
Enter the technology used to de-age Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men 3.

Check these out (click on them to see full size):

That wasn’t make-up, and strictly speaking, wasn’t CGI. They essentially used photoshop to frame-by-frame give them digital face lifts. Smooth a wrinkle, shorten an ear, shrink a nose…

For any scenes in the Indy movie that need help, shouldn’t be any problem at all given the budget i am sure this monster has.

I am listening to the soundtrack to the first films as i post right now.

After the latest several movies by both Lucas and Spielberg i don’t know why, but i really have hope that this will be good. We’ll find out next May 28th.

it’s good to be steve

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on July 2, 2007 at 7:09 am

Steve Jobs’ weekend:

Approx $288mil from iPhones
Approx $47mil from Ratatouille

I’d take that.

pixar goodness

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on June 29, 2007 at 7:25 pm

I took a half-day off from work today to go see Ratatouille with Christy. We went to see it at the theater near Rivergate mall. Very nice actually. Well, not very nice, but very good and certainly nicer than most. The only ‘nicer’ theaters i could name would be Green Hills or Opry Mills and those theaters still show most movies in…[shudder]…film. This theaters has already converted to digital, like other smaller theaters. But the overall experience was much better than the one at the Hickory Hollow theater.

Anyway.
To the movie.
(I will do my absolute best to avoid anything like spoilers)

Very good. I have to say i went in somewhat skeptical, yet really excited. This was Pixar, and for those that don’t know, i am a huge Pixar fan. I love their work, their self-awareness, and most of all, the heart and depth that their movies have. They hold my interest as an adult with intelligent story lines, thoughtful characters, and truly funny jokes – not potty humor like some other studios – but real funny situational comedy. In the end though, i am a firm believer that most of the Pixar movies, had they been made with real actors and not animated, would have been in the running for best picture. The stories, characters, and writing are that good. Through all of that though, they are also movies that you can take anyone to see. They are not just PG, they are waaay G. But still very good movies for adults.

The one exception to that however, was The Incredibles. Don’t get me wrong. Fabulous movie. 4.5 out of 5 stars for me. But not the 5+ that the other Pixar movies garner to me. It fell just a little short in both the all-ages category and in the story. Again – don’t get me wrong. I still got choked up at some parts, but it was a little heavy handed. A little obvious and i felt like my emotions were being manipulated. I felt like i was watching a great movie – but i felt like i was watching a movie. Ironically, i think with most of the other Pixar movies, when the emotional climax to the movie comes, i always feel like i am watching real characters interact and cameras are catching real action. It feels so honest. Which is ironic of course considering that The Incredibles is the first movie where it is people on the screen and not talking bugs or toys or fish or whatever.

Because of all of that i went in skeptical. Ratatouille was written and directed by Brad Bird, the same guy that did the Incredibles. He is not one of the Pixar guys to me (John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, etc). Good writer/director, but his movies feel different than Pixar.

Anyway…

This was a really good movie. I recommend everyone see it. Though I will say that this isn’t a “must see” for theaters. It is not an action movie or anything and unless you can see it in digital, i fear you may not be able to truly appreciate the amazing animation details. That’s really about the only thing that was extremely ‘cinematic’ about this movie. I think that may have been one of the disappointments for me. The movie felt small the vast majority of the time. While this sounds logical given the movies central character is about 6 inches tall, Pixar proved in A Bug’s Life that you can make a movie about miniatures look like an epic. But hey, with the type of story it was, maybe that was on purpose. I just think the movie could have used a little more scale and power. Every time we see the “beauty” of Paris it is through a window. Most of the shots are very tight. Just not a lot of scale to the movie.

The other factor that was a little disappointing to me was that yet again, like the Incredibles, this movie is a very PG movie to me. It got a G rating, but if i had children under the age of 6 or 7, i would have been a little uncomfortable with a couple of scenes. Nothing horrific mind you, and nothing like the Incredibles. But there were two scenes in particular that would take either eye-closing for a little one or some explaining afterwards, or both. Again, one of the things i really love about most Pixar movies is that you can show them to anyone and they will enjoy them. Adults get a lot out of them, but any kids can watch them. They are innocent but not simple. This movie was a little lighter on innocents and a little heavier on simplicity.

Overall though, great movie. I was laughing out loud quite often, especially early in the movie. Very funny. Worth seeing. I will probably see it again in the theater and will definitely own it when it is released on DVD.

Compared against the 5+ of other Pixar’s this fell short of my high expectations, but it was still a solid 4.5 out of 5.

Now…as to the part that i really loved…

The teaser trailer at the beginning of the movie for the next Pixar film, Wall-E. It is coming out just next summer, which i am really excited about. Increased computing power and better and better software mean they are able to crank out Pixar films faster – and the extra budget from them buying out Disney, Disney merging with them Disney buying them out and putting all of Pixar on the board doesn’t hurt either. Best part, is this is a “true” Pixar film. Back to Andrew Stanton.

Without further ado, here’s the trailer for Wall-E.

High Def quicktime version here.

Here is another teaser/ad/viral video that was released with the Ratatouille video game.

That video mentions a website at the end, which really does exist: www.BuyNLarge.com. Check it out. Click on the little red dot at the bottom. This will be a fun site to watch in the coming months.

One last interesting couple of notes about the movie:
1) Pixar has re-rendered the opening title shot of their logo (featuring Luxo Jr, the bouncing desk lamp). The lighting has obviously been redone and it looks great. Again, see it on film and you’ll probably miss this.
2) There is a short at the beginning of the movie. Very funny, though a little strange. Ok, a lot strange. But very funny.

pirate review

In Entertainment, Friends, Movies, Reviews on May 25, 2007 at 7:02 am

This is going to be quick, since i am actually at work today:

[Warning – not bad spoilers, but if you are like me and don’t want to know anything about the movie before you see it, you might as well stop reading]

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Very good movie. Not great, but worth seeing in the theater (even a non-digital one).

However, it was much like Spiderman 3, it took a jump to the goofy side several times that is going to make it hard to re-watch.

Overall, i was gratified to find that it lived up to my expectation as a very similar trilogy to the original Star Wars trilogy. First movie is fun, beat the bad guys, could stand alone. Second movie is much much darker, and our scoundrel hero dies/disappears in the end and the rest of the team (young and fragile) is left all alone in the world. Third movie they first have to come of age on their own, go rescue the scoundrel, and the audience has to deal with silliness (Ewoks and split personalities) and there is a major battle at the end.

Of course with Pirates, the ending was a little more complicated and slightly less obvious than Star Wars – and not quite as completely happy, but solid overall.

Last statement is that the writing stayed fantastic. The pace was good, the plot twists did not disappoint, but were not impossible to follow, and the dialog was appropriately simple/complex for each character. Lots of good quotable quotes from Captain Jack and other characters without being too silly (most of the time).


I will also say that i went back on my promise and watched this movie on film (at Opry Mills) but the experience was tolerable. Much better than my previous film experiences. However, my friend (one that i drug with me to see Spiderman 3 in digital) leaned over to me after the movie and cursed me for spoiling him. He had never thought film was bad until he saw a movie in digital. This was a great film showing, the sound was good, but there were still flecks, the light still flickered, and the picture still shifted laterally and in and out of focus. We’ll see where we end up going to see our next movie on the list (Ocean’s 13 is probably next), but i have a feeling it will be digital. No question we’ll see Ratatouille in digital, but my hope is that we wont have to goto the ghetto to see it – Opry Mills was showing Shrek 3 in digital last night (but everything else on film).

digital experience

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on May 6, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Well, i did it.
I drug my friends to a ghetto theater (Hickory 8 in this case) so we could see Spiderman 3 with a digital projector instead of flickering, scratchy, fuzzy, hairy film.

It was wonderful.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids constantly running in and out of the crowded, smallish theater was annoying, and the sound was a little loud and treble-heavy. They also didn’t have anything but candy and popcorn at the concession stand – no hot dogs!. (Normally i never partake of concessions, but we were running late and needed to grab something to tide us over for dinner). But the seats were very nice, large comfortable (soft) seats. Overall i give the theater itself a 6 out of 10 at best.

However, overall it was the best movie experience i’ve had in a long while. The picture was steady, in focus, and sharp. No hair. No scratches. No jitter. I also couldn’t see any pixelation or color gradients the way i can on most digital TV’s (including our basic DLP projector at home, alas). I really want to know what kind of codec and bitrate they use, and what resolution the movie and projector are. It was amazing. I don’t plan on going to a non-digital theater again. Ever.

By the way, the movie itself was pretty good. Not great, but not as bad as the Fantastic Four. Definitely didn’t take itself too seriously, which helped given the overall heavy emotional content of the movie. They did a good job of taking established Spiderman story lines and integrating them in interesting ways. I also very much appreciated the producers who made the trailers not giving away much of the end of the movie. There were one (or two) important characters not in the trailers that made for great effects eye-candy that weren’t shown in the trailer. I don’t want to say too much for those that haven’t seen it, but i applaud the producers for not giving in to the urge to put every cool effects shot in the trailer. Final judgment: not a waste of money, but you’re safe waiting for DVD if you have a decent home theater.

Now i have to preach to everyone else that if it is in digital, it is worth going to the movies again.

(For those that missed my rant about bad theater experiences a while back: check here)

digital conversion

In Entertainment, Friends, Movies on May 3, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Well, the first of my must see movies for the summer, Spiderman 3, is opening tomorrow. My friends and i aren’t the midnight crowd (not usually), so we won’t seeing the movie tonight.We always watch Stargate on Friday nights, so that means we’ll be seeing it Sat.
Anyway…

The point of this post is to tell you that i am finally going to make good on my threats to never pay to see a movie on film again.

I’ve spend far too much time this afternoon calling around to local theaters, but i finally have the list of which theaters have made the move to digital projectors:

Carmike Rivergate 8 – Yes
Bell Forge 10 (Hockory Hollow)- Yes
Wynnsong 10 (Rivergate) – Yes
Wynnsong 16 (Murfreesboro) – Yes
Green Hills 16 – No
Opry Mills – No
Hollywood 27 – No
Thoroughbred 20 – No

What is really odd about this list: All the old theaters have gone digital, while all of the “nice” new theaters are still showing film. (The girl at Opry Mills try to tell me that IMAX was digital…it is 70mm film for those that don’t know). I guess this makes sense for two reasons: 1) those theaters are losing audience to the newer stadium-seating theaters so they need a ‘gimmick’ and 2) they are older and were due for upgrades, so they get the new stuff.

Either way, i plan on frequenting these places from here on out. Outside of focus, there shouldn’t be any issues with picture or sound at these places again. (gum on the seats and sticky floors may be another issue all together)

ratatouille

In Entertainment, Movies on April 28, 2007 at 11:08 pm

I can’t believe this has apparently been out for a while and i just saw it.
New trailer for Ratatouille! (not just the teaser)

Get the High Def version here.

You can also check out this really funny little short animation test, as well as a behind the scenes video with the writer/director, as well as the technical guys. And last but not least, a set of videos with the writer/director and main star appearing at WonderCon: part 1 and 2. And last but not least, a feature that Good Morning America did on the movie (it is pretty bad though).

Oh – and in related (embarrassing) news: i didn’t know ratatouille was actually a real food until my sister pointed it out.

coming soon: update

In Entertainment, Me, Movies on April 26, 2007 at 10:59 am

So i’m not going to make a massive list like i did last time.

This time i am just going to share with everyone the large list of movies that i “have” to go see this summer/year. As i pointed out last time, it is amazing how many of these are sequels.

Movies i am for sure going to check out:
May 4th – Spiderman 3
May 25th – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
June 8th – Ocean’s Thirteen
June 29th – Ratatouille
July 4th – Transformers
July 13th – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
August 10th – Rush Hour 3
August 17th – Fanboys

Others of note that i am going to wait to rent or borrow:
May 18th – Shrek the 3rd
June 15th – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
June 22nd – Evan Almighty
June 29th – Live Free or Die Hard
July 27th – The Simpsons Movie
August 3rd – Underdog
August 3rd – The Bourne Ultimatum
August 17th – The Invasion

Yes, out of the 16 movies that i am interested in this summer, 2 – that is TWO – are original movies (not sequels or remakes or based on TV shows or whatever). Either something is wrong with me, or something is wrong with the movie industry – or both.

Other interesting movies coming in the not too distant future…
His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass
I Am Legend
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Speed Racer – by the Wachowski brothers
The Incredible Hulk – didn’t we just do this one?

Other movies coming that are worth noting but don’t have set release dates set yet…
The Dark Knight
Bond 22
Superman: The Man of Steel
Indiana Jones 4
John Rambo
Shrek 4
Puss in Boots
The Hobbit

Now i have to go work some more…

tragic upset

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on February 26, 2007 at 7:54 am

For only the second time, Pixar lost an Oscar they were nominated for. Up until this point, Pixar had won for every Best Animated Picture or Best Animated Short Oscar they had ever been up for, save for the first year the award was given (2001) when Shrek won. All I can figure is they lost for spite. That too many people didn’t want to “give” them the Oscar.

But come on! Happy Feet?!

I would have understood if The Incredibles had lost to Shrek 2. The Incredibles was not as strong as past Pixar films, but… Happy Feet!? I saw all three movies in the category this year. The trailers for Happy Feet looked killer, and all I can figure is voters must have gone off of that and not bothered to actually watch.

The only good parts of the movie fit into the 2 min trailer, and when viewed in context, they were weak. Not to mention, as my wife pointed out, there were live actors in multiple parts of Happy Feet. It was just a bad movie. Not a good musical (one of those modern “mash-up” musicals with pop songs rather than a true musical) and the ending was just bizarre. It had nothing to do with the lead up of the movie. It jumped from a nice coming of age story for the first hour-plus, to a solve-world-peace environmentalist movie in the last 15 minutes. Honestly i think Monster House (the other movie in the category) was a better film – and it was pretty strange too. But at least it was supposed to be.

Cars was a great movie. I think probably the best Pixar since Finding Nemo or A Bug’s Life. How in the world it lost to Happy Feet i don’t know. Oh well.

latest sign of the apocolypse

In Entertainment, Movies on January 23, 2007 at 8:35 am

In the latest sign that the world is about to end…

Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet, Eddie Murphy, and Mark Wahlberg were all just nominated for Oscars.

Now i will say, i didn’t see any of the movies in question. And i do like Smith and Wahlberg, and the one movie i’ve seen Cruz in was decent. But Oscar material?

a night at the movie theater

In Christy, Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on December 24, 2006 at 9:47 pm

Christy and i decided to go see a movie tonight (Christmas eve), courtesy of some free tickets from a bad experience at an earlier movie showing (*see previous post). We chose to see A Night at the Museum. It was great. Just was i was hoping for.

Very fun, fairly shallow, and extremely entertaining. Plenty of slapstick style gags, but not so much as to get tired of them. I also loved seeing Dick Van Dyke, one of my favorite comedic actors of all time, doing his thing again. Ben Stiller was also great throughout. It was smart, touching, but not too sappy. And just generally fun. You’ll smile and giggle through the whole thing, though rarely laugh out loud. But you will almost certainly leave in a much better mood than when you went in (if you can let yourself have the fun).

It was also great because this movie was PG and was justly so (save one fly-by use of the “a**” word). There were some scenes that would be scary for little kids, but on the whole it was a very innocent and entertaining movie that a family really could go see, with some good take-home warm-fuzzy morals to the story too.

Recommended: Highly

a better movie experience

In Entertainment, Movies on December 24, 2006 at 9:22 pm

Christy and i are becoming quite the movie buffs. We’ve been getting to go see several movies for free (Charlotte’s Web and The Nativity Story) and electing to pay to see others. We also have our Blockbuster online membership. However, having the home theater setup that we do, and watching tons of movies at home via Blockbuster lately – i am really growing to dislike going to the movies. It’s not the price of the popcorn or the kids in the front row or even the price of the tickets. It’s the fact that i honestly get a better showing of the movie at home with my home theater that cost a total of maybe $1,500 to put together (not a small amount of money i know, but nothing massive either).

The movie we saw tonight had no sound through the first several trailers (including several i hadn’t seen yet and wanted to). Then once the sound did come on, it dropped to stereo a couple of times in the movie, then jumped back into surround. There was also a massive green scratch down the middle of the picture for about 2 minutes straight at one point

Add to this the fact that they are still showing movies on film in our theaters, despite having higher-than-HD digital projectors that they show previews on. The film not only has the previously mentioned scratches and hair, but it jumps around. It is part of the nature of film. It never stays 100% in focus and it moves slightly from side-to-side and top-to-bottom occasionally. Digital projectors, while having their own issues (finite resolution and limited color pallet, etc) at least hold the picture steady and in focus through the whole showing.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Landmark Theaters, has a new company starting up that is trying to promote the simultaneous release of movies to theaters, pay-per-view, and DVD. At this point, i would SO be willing to shell out $25 or maybe even as much as $45 to have a high quality DVD of a new movie (no bonus content) that i could watch with friends at home (say…the upcoming Ratatouille or Transformers) rather than pay $15 to go see it in a theater with only Christy. If i know i am likely to own the movie eventually anyway, i have no problem doing that.

I’d even be willing to wait a few weeks. Make the first week theater, second week PPV, third week DVD. I’d be willing to bet it would actually cut back on all the piracy, too. People could just legally go buy a high-quality copy rather than wait a day for a bad quality camcorder rip to download (a practice i do not partake in or encourage, BTW).

sharper Pixar

In Cool Tech, Entertainment, Movies on December 14, 2006 at 8:18 am

Another thing i am excited about…

iTunes may offer Disney movies in HD next year! While i am not in a hurry to watch the Hunchback of Notre Dame, i am dying to watch Cars and other Pixar movies.

I have the Cars trailer in HD (1080p) thanks to Apple’s movie trailer site. I still pull it up about once a week and just drool over it. But to go from 1920×1080 on that trailer to 720×480 on the DVD…you can really start to see a difference (Don’t get me wrong – i still want the DVD for Christmas!). But i can’t wait to watch the whole thing in HD.

And yes, i think i could even get over having to buy it from Apple.

sequel to sequels

In Movies on December 1, 2006 at 3:48 pm

This is getting rough… The Star Wars prequels were one thing, and Hollywood has always loved remakes. But this latest fascination with doing sequels of movie franchises long abandoned is getting silly. If you want to read an article, read this one.

Otherwise, i think this list speaks for itself. This is all the sequels that have come out in the last year or are slated to be released in the near future (or known/planned movies in the more distant future). That’s right, from 2005 forward, we will be or have been subjected to 54 sequels.


New Sequel Since Last Movie Since First Movie
Bond 22 2 years 46 years
(Untitled “Pink Panther” Sequel) 2 years 45 years
Casino Royale 4 years 44 years
The Pink Panther 30 years 43 years
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning 3 years 32 years
Superman: The Man of Steel 3 years years 31 years
Rocky Balboa 16 years 30 years
Superman Returns 19 years 28 years
Alien vs. Predator 2 3 years 28 years
Indiana Jones 4 19 years 27 years
Rambo 4: In the Serpent’s Eye 20 years 26 years
Hannibal Rising 5 years 21 years
Live Free, Die Harder 12 years 19 years
The Dark Knight 3 years 19 years
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 14 years 17 years
Batman Begins 8 years 16 years
Basic Instinct 2 14 years 14 years
Clerks 2 12 years 12 years
The Santa Clause 3 4 years 12 years
Mr. Bean’s Holiday 10 years 10 years
Mission Impossible 3 6 years 10 years
Rush Hour 3 6 years 9 years
Shrek 4 3 years 9 years
Puss in Boots 3 years 9 years
The Hobbit 6 years 8 years
Scary Movie 5 2 years 8 years
Wolverine 1 year 8 years
The Legend of Zorro 7 years 7 years
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price 1 year 7 years
Magneto 1 year 7 years
Big Momma’s House 2 6 years 6 years
Shrek the 3rd 3 years 6 years
Ocean’s 13 3 years 6 years
X-Men 3: The Last Stand 3 years 6 years
Scary Movie 4 3 years 6 years
Final Destination 3 3 years 6 years
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2 years 6 years
28 Weeks Later 5 years 5 years
Spider-man 3 3 years 5 years
Resident Evil: Extinction 3 years 5 years
The Bourne Ultimatum 3 years 5 years
Van Wilder 2 4 years 4 years
Ice Age: The Meltdown 4 years 4 years
Evan Almighty 4 years 4 years
Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End 1 year 4 years
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 1 year 4 years
Saw 4 1 year 4 years
Underworld: Evolution 3 years 3 years
Transporter 2 3 years 3 years
The Grudge 2 2 years 2 years
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer 2 years 2 years
Cheaper by the Dozen 2 2 years 2 years
Saw 3 1 year 2 years
The Hills Have Eyes 2 1 year 1 year
Saw 2 1 year 1 year


(OK, i just found another page with many more listed. I will work to add those to the list in the near future)

Of course many of these actually reference TV shows, comic books, or novels that far pre-date even the first movie in the series. I also don’t count movies that are straight remakes. It would have taken me forever to put that list together.

I guess there really is nothing new in Hollywood.

us hollywood types

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on November 11, 2006 at 1:48 pm

Christy and i got to goto* a preview screening of The Nativity Story last night in Green Hills.

I have to say, my expectations were pretty non-existent. I hadn’t seen any trailers for the movie, and hadn’t seen any promo material or anything else about it. I just had heard that it was coming out soon. Christy is the entertainment writer (as well as a general editor, etc) for Lifeway.com, so she got invited (with guest) to come see the sneak preview.

My impression afterward was mixed. I’ll go with the good part first, then the bad parts, then the amazing parts…

The movie itself, as a whole was ok. Nothing amazing, but pretty good. The settings, costumes, etc all seemed very authentic (not that i would know if they weren’t, but the point is i believed they were). The story flow was good. They also did a good job of throwing things in that you could buy into to keep the story interesting. This is obviously important given that well over half the audience probably knows this story pretty well in advance. They took a few liberties away from how i understand things ‘really’ happened, but they were obviously for the sake of making it interesting, or appealing to conventional/traditional tellings of the story (3 wise men arriving the night of the birth are the most obvious example).

Two complaints i would have were the dialog in a few spots, and the music.

The dialog overall was good. The movie starts out with Zechariah in the temple mostly speaking Hebrew. After watching The Passion and other such movies, it was kind of disappointing when everyone started speaking English shortly there after. That part i could live with though, and the dialog was good for the most part. The bad part was that it didn’t fit with the Biblical quotes. Everyone would be talking fairly normally – or at least how i would expect ancient Hebrew familes in small villages to talk in a movie – up until they ran into a part where the Bible actually has a verbatim quote of what so-and-so said. In those cases, they jumped right into the King James, then once the quote was done, they’d return to well-written dialog. That got pretty annoying. Luckily, most of this movie is filled-in assumptions, so that didn’t happen very often.

The music was…ok most of the time, but a few times was down right bad. The movie opens with a Christmas carol (I can’t recall which one) being played very epic soundtrack-ish. Then most of the movie stays out of the way. My wife, who’s knowledge of church and choral music far exceeds my own says that most of the music was based on other Christmas music themes, but they were originals were obscure enough, or they were modified enough as to not be destracting. The exception to this was what was supposed to be the tension/stress-filled climax to the movie. I don’t think i’m giving anything away here, but in the event that someone really doesn’t want to know anything about the movie, i’ll hide the text in black – just highlight below to read it….

[begin possible spoiler]
Just as Joseph and Mary are on the outskirts of Bethlehem, Mary suddenly goes into labor (which according to a comment she made earlier, means Jesus was several weeks premature). Joseph goes into the standard father-to-be panic to find her a place to actually have the savior of all mankind. Thus making the whole “there is no room in the inn” thing a practical action sequence. It was a little goofy, but the real problem was this – the music for this sequence was “The Carol of the Bells”, played high-tension style with fast strings in a minor key. My wife had to shush me more than once i was laughing so hard. It turned a decent/good moment in the movie into a comedy sequence.
[end possible spoiler]

Anyway. Overall the movie was good, but here’s what was awesome about it:
I cried.
3 times.

I didn’t cry at Mary (she was decent, but just kinda there). Joseph was great, very well acted and written, but he didn’t get me either. It was the shepherd. He was amazing. His story, as short as it was, and the way he played it, just killed me.

Anyway, that’s my review. They let us go see it early, and i think the idea was that we would tell people about it. So consider yourself told.

* Those of us that learned BASIC in school growing up (for me it was 1st grade) learned that “goto” is a word. Spell check constantly reminds me that it is not, in fact, a word. But that hasn’t stopped me in 20+ years of writing. To this day, i have to go back and put in a space at least 5-10 times every single day at work. Basically every time you see me say “go to” on my blog, i have had to do it there too. This one time, i thought i’d leave it in for old times sake.

trailers

In Entertainment, Movies, Reviews on November 4, 2006 at 11:06 am

As i’ve talked about before, Christy and I often have movie parties at our house. Usually these things are scheduled to start around X:00, but people are usually late, and we never have the turnout we hope for. As a result, we usually end up starting the movies around X:30. This isn’t any big problem, but sometimes it leads to awkward time periods of sitting around. Especially since the people that show up on time are frequently people we know less well, as well as the fact that these parties mix our ‘friend groups’ so people there don’t always know each other.

As a solution to this, i have sometimes played little short movies while we wait. Just funny things that are somehow topically appropriate or whatever. However, i’m starting to run out of things to play (believe it or not). As a solution to that i have recently begun ripping and collecting movie trailers for other movies we own or might watch. It’s really been a lot of fun. It’s really interesting to notice the changes in the way trailers we done through the decades. I’ve done movies from just about every time period and genre, and its interesting to observe the differences. A lot of trailers from the 70’s and 80’s really don’t make me want to see the movie (Back to the Future‘s teaser and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark are particularly poor).

It’s also funny to see how some movies are very mis-represented by their trailers (The Day The Earth Stood Still). Still others tell you nothing about the movie and assume you already know story/pitch from its fabulous run on Broadway, so of course you’ll come see the movie (My Fair Lady and Harvey).

One other interesting problem i have run into though – not all movie studios elect to put the trailers on the DVDs. I’d never really noticed this before. It does make sense that if i own a movie, and don’t need to be sold into seeing it. However, it seems that a simple 2 minutes of footage doesn’t take that long to encode and doesn’t take up much space on the disk. Disney seems particularly bad about this. None of the recent Pixar movies have them (The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, etc), nor does The Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, even though they all have 2-disc sets. Its seems they’d be dying to find more content to fill the discs with. What Pixar did do is put the a teaser on each disk for the next Pixar movie. So i can get the teaser trailer for Finding Nemo off the Monsters Inc DVD, the one for Incredibles off the Finding Nemo DVD, etc. But no where can i get the true theatrical trailer for any of them. There are many other movies that have elected not to include them. The most surprising of which is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have 12 discs full of content about those movies. TWELVE. And none of them have a single teaser, trailer, or ‘sneak peek’ for the movies themselves.

So, here’s the deal. I need your help. I’ve been able to find trailers online for a lot of the more recent movies. Quicktime‘s site in particular has a great selection of 1080p HD/surroundsound trailers. However, for older movies, and a few specific ones – i can’t find trailers.

So here’s the list. If any of you know where to find downloadable trailers for any of these movies (good quality. low-res fuzzy YouTube videos don’t count) please let me know.

A Bug’s Life
Back to the Future
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Explorers
Hook
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Monsters Inc
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

And that’s just the short list for now…
Thanks!

movie/costume party

In Christy, Me, Movies, Pictures on October 28, 2006 at 12:12 pm

My wife and i are hosting a movie party tonight. Normally this is the kind of thing i would post on our ViewingParty site, but i think that site (as well as many of my other sites) is about to be taken down. The site was cool, but we didn’t do enough parties, and no one really ever used the site.

Anyway, we are watching the lack comedy Arsenic and Old Lace then the suspense thriller Wait Until Dark starting at about 6:00pm tonight. If you know us, you probably know our cell numbers – call us for directions. If not, you can try emailing.


Update: The “party” went well. A member of the US Army (Matt) and a peace protester (Ariana) showed up. As did Indiana Jones (Jamie) and a…safari girl/person (Hannah) My costume didn’t really come together. I ended up just being a generic, black USB device (which will come together into a USB optical mouse by Tues for my custume at work…don’t ask). Christy was great – she did a bollywood outfit, which really turned out awesome. And even better – she gave me permission to post a picture:

Of course, the movies were good. Wait Until Dark was as good as I remembered, and thankfully I couldn’t remember the ending exactly, so I was very drawn in. And there was one moment where all three girls screamed outloud. Yeah. Good stuff.