Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When the now-long-forgotten HD disc format wars were just barely getting started, I jumped on the bandwagon early and bought the HD-DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360 (at the original higher price, even). I also purchased a number of HD movies in the "Red" (HD-DVD) format and soon discovered the wonders of 1080p movies at home on the Xbox 360.

Ultimately, Blu-ray won the battle to determine which of the two competing formats would survive to become the industry standard. Today I rent Netflix movies in Blu-ray format whenever they are available, and there's nothing like the experience of great movies in high-definition in the home theater room with a 120-inch 1080p projected image and the sound cranked up.

I'm one of those people that buys movies I especially like or one that I'll want to watch again in the future. Unless it's really a favorite I'm more likely to rent from Netflix. Ever since the death of the red disc and the day I bought a PS3 (essentially to use as a Blu-ray player), I've wished I could play all my HD movies on the one device, just for simplicity's sake. But it doesn't work that way. I still hope for the day when a Blu-ray drive comes available for the Xbox 360, but I'm not holding my breath or anything.


Today I was reading blog posts from the past couple weeks and I saw that my friend Travis Illig recently mentioned a service from Warner Brothers called Red2Blu that allows you to take your HD-DVD's from that label and trade them in for the Blu-Ray version for a small fee per disc ($4.95). After creating a list of the Warner Brothers HD-DVDs you have at home on their web site and paying the upgrade fee with a credit card, you'll print out the PDF shipping label they provide, and then mail WB the cover art sleeves from the HD-DVDs you're converting to Blu-Ray. A FAQ covering common topics can be found here.

I just printed my shipping label and pulled all my cover art out of the HD-DVD cases. I'll ship it all off to WB tomorrow. It'll be nice to make the movie library a bit more consistent. I'll need to look to see if any of the other publishing companies have a similar program, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all but three of my HD-DVDs were from the WB label, so I'm pretty well covered. Here are the discs I'm able to convert:



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Monday, May 04, 2009 11:25:31 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There's some great news out of the Microsoft Xbox crew at the E3 conference - NetFlix integration with your XBox 360:

Microsoft revealed that beginning later this year, Netflix subscribers would gain access to the entire Netflix digital library through their online XBox 360's.  Gold membership is required to take advantage of this partnership, but the newfound capacity represents a large step forward in increasing the XBox 360's appeal as a living room media box.  The present Netflix digital library includes roughly 10,000 titles, and on the 360 will feature the ability for watching videos concurrently with friends over the Internet through the new community party system.

Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix. Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers will be able to streaming movies and television show episodes from Netflix at no additional cost. I'm really looking forward to that. All we need now is a Blu-Ray drive for the 360 console...

Also announced was a revamped user experience and interface (implemented completely through software updates, and allowing more personalization and social interactivity), new HD programming partners and content (including Battlestar Galactica, which I am looking forward to), a price cut on the "Pro" model of the Xbox 360 and a new model slated for August, a future feature which will allow you to copy your game disk to the Xbox hard drive for faster loading and smoother play (you still need to have the original disc though), and a bunch of new games.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2008 11:11:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, May 13, 2008
An artist named BLU has created what can only be described as an amazinly interesting and fun short film using stop-action animation and walls on public buildings. Check out more information about the film at the artist's BLUBLU.ORG web site.


MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Found via Jeff Atwood on Twitter - thanks!



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Tuesday, May 13, 2008 8:39:49 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, March 02, 2008

... and one of the best scenes. Silly, really. But every time I watch this film I laugh out loud, even still today.

"First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

 
Sorry for the random post. I have no idea why I'm writing this, really. For some reason it was just on my mind.
 
If you've never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then each of the following three things applies directly to you:
  1. Your life is incomplete
  2. You're missing out
  3. Shame on you

So go rent or buy a copy now, then watch it and relax, knowing your life is much more whole than it had been before you read this post.



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Sunday, March 02, 2008 11:22:59 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, February 11, 2008

Well, I love my Xbox360 HD-DVD drive, and watching full 1080p HD-DVD movies on the Elite model. I've bought about 10 or so HD-DVDs and have rented a few from NetFlix recently. But, in what is looking more and more like an inevitably certain format death, Netflix announced today that it will no longer be stocking new HD-DVD releases, and they'll eventually phase out the current titles from their stock.

In fact, as I was writing this post an email from Netflix just arrived that explains the change:

netflix We're Going Blu-ray

Dear Greg,

You're receiving this email because you have asked to receive high-definition movies in the HD DVD format. As you may have heard, most of the major movie studios have recently decided to release their high-definition movies exclusively in the Blu-ray format. In order to provide the best selection of high-definition titles for our members, we have decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray as well.

blu-ray While we will continue to make our current selection of HD DVD titles available to you for the next several months, we will not be adding additional HD DVD titles or reordering replacements.

Toward the end of February, HD DVDs in your Saved Queue will automatically be changed to standard definition DVDs. Then toward the end of this year, all HD DVDs in your Queue will be changed to standard definition DVDs. Don't worry, we will contact you before this happens.

You can click here to change your format preferences.

We're sorry for any inconvenience. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please call us at 1 (888) 638-3549.

-The Netflix Team

Well, sometimes you make a bet and you lose.

So, my (our) options at this point appear to be...

    1. Wait around, hope against hope, and pray that HD-DVD miraculously sees a resurgence (umm, yeah...)
    2. Hope someone builds a dual-format drive for the Xbox360 that can replace the one I have now (not likely)
    3. Buy one of the new dual-format/combo drives that you can put in a PC and go that route (possibility, depending on what they end up costing, and I have to think about how and where I want to play movies)
    4. Buy a PS3 (ouch, in so many ways)
    5. Just give in and buy a Blu-ray stand-alone player (but I wonder if I should wait til they drop in price some more, they ain't cheap)

Any other ideas? Let me know!



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Monday, February 11, 2008 12:52:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, August 17, 2007

UPDATED: On December 19, 2007 Blockbuster notified its customers that it is once again increasing rates for the Total Access service. Click here for more information.

Nothing like BS marketing diversionary explanations for what amounts to a profiteering move. Come on, Blockbuster - we're not stupid... Tell it like it is.

It looks like the great Blockbuster Total Access Premium plan I've been on was a little too good to be true, and Blockbuster is reeling in some line to cut back on the likely massive number of free in-store rentals they've been handing out for free when customers return their online rentals to the brick-and-mortar stores. I know I have enjoyed that service, but I'm not especially enjoying the news I just got in email this evening telling me my account is changing.

In a nutshell, for the price I have been paying all along I will get less. I can still get 3 DVDs at a time, but will only be able to exchange five of the online movies for in-store rentals each month, where before there was no limit. To get what I'm used to, I'll have to pay another $7.00 a month. Looks like I have some decisions to make.

Here's the plan I have today, at least the next week or two...

Your Current Plan: BLOCKBUSTER Total Access Premium 

  • $17.99 / month (plus taxes)
  • 3 at-a-time, unlimited mailings
  • unlimited in-store free movie/discounted game exchanges
  • +2 FREE bonus Movie or Game Rental E-Coupon / Month

And below is the chart from their web site with the new plans. Ouch...

newblockbusterprices

The other thing that really gets me is the lame explanation (my opinion) they provided for why they're pre-determining and limiting the number of in-store rental exchanges they're allowing each month. This is taken from their online FAQ (emphasis mine):

QUESTION: Why is BLOCKBUSTER offering plans with a pre-determined number of monthly in-store movie exchanges?

ANSWER: We are now offering a full range of subscription options so that our customers can more easily find a plan that meets their specific needs, whether that means a basic online-only service without any in-store exchange privileges or a premium plan that includes unlimited in-store exchanges. Our new line-up of plans allow subscribers to get the right number of movies for their needs. Current subscribers are welcome to change their plan at any time by going to My Account.

What?? I already had a plan that met my needs, the very same plan that now costs $24.99, and which used to cost $17.99. Gah.

Why can't they just say it: They want/need to make more money and this makes it possible. Seriously, open and honest explanations about the obvious reasons would be much easier to swallow. In fact, if they told us the reason for the increase is because they didn't anticipate lower margins associated with lots of unlimited exchanges in the store, I might even consider paying the higher price to keep the same level of service. But putting forth what looks like a veiled, lame excuse for a reason doesn't exactly motivate me to do even more business with the company. Hey Blockbuster, just tell us what's really up -- please.

Oh and another thing - If you have one of the accounts with the limited in-store exchanges, apparently the counter for tracking your the in-store exchanges is based on how many you do in a calendar month, not per billing period.

Because I have been with the Total Access program for some time, I have also been getting two e-coupons a month for free in-store movie or game rentals. But I can't tell whether I will still get those after this change takes place. I might have to contact their customer support to find out. I hope they're keeping those in place for their longer-term customers.

Am I just whining here, or do you feel my pain? Are you affected by this change? What do you think?



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Friday, August 17, 2007 8:33:54 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, April 13, 2007

I used to be a Netflix user. In fact I was subscribed for well over a year, but after the first few months I never built the queue back up and I just didn't care to use the service. I found myself constantly forgetting about it. Movies sat around the house after being watched. My monthly fees were going nowhere. Then an opportunity came along to sign up for Blockbuster's online service, and I took it - and promptly canceled my Netflix account. As it turned out, Blockbuster not only offered three movies at a time for a competitive price, but I would also be able to get free rentals in the local store by using monthly online coupons that I'd just load in my browser from the web site and print out at home. That sounded pretty cool to me.

Fast forward about a year, and Blockbuster enhanced their online rental service to allow you to return movies to the local store - they call it Total Access. On top of that, when you return your movie in its mailer to the store instead of dropping it in a mailbox, you get to exchange it for a free store rental of your choice. Now that's a great deal. In the end, it means I can sit at home and set up my rental queue, and rent online, and when I drop them at the store I can get three more movies to watch while I wait for the next set of movies to ship in the mail from my queue. And I still get the two free rental coupons (which can be used for movies or video games) each month. It's pretty awesome. We are watching a lot more movies as a result, and we're also watching more movies that fall into the "interesting" category, too.

I have only one wish-list item for Blockbuster to improve its service, and this is a big one in my book: Right now, if I put movies in my online queue to have mailed to me, there is no intelligent connection between what I rent in the store and what sits in the queue. So, if I put Children of Men in the online queue and I also rent it in the store because I find it on the shelf while I am in there, currently there is no way for the online service to "know" I have already rented it. What Blockbuster needs to do (in my humble opinion) is to compare what I rent in the store to the list of movies in my online queue. If I pick up a movie in person, they should prompt me to remove it from my queue, or allow me in my account settings to have that film automatically removed. More than once I have picked up a movie at the store only to have it shipped the next day or so from the mailing service. In those cases I have just taken the duplicate mail copy and exchanged it for an in-store rental, so no real harm or anything, but I would sure like to have some inventory and queue connection happening with my account.

I highly recommend Blockbuster Total Access. They ship fast, the selection is good, and I am really enjoying the in-store integration.



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Friday, April 13, 2007 2:09:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, February 18, 2007

Nothing like having an automated buddy on the other end of the instant messaging conversation to keep ya busy eh? Well, sometimes they can be practical.

If you use Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger), and if you're a film freak (or even if you just like movies), go to your IM client program and add moviescout@botmetro.net to your contact list. Then open a conversation window and type "hi" or something similar. You can set your ZIP code and start searching.

    

Once you've found a movie you want to look at, enter the number next to the title to get showtimes and a link to more information about the film:

    

It's pretty cool. A lot like using Fandango in your browser, I suppose. But on a mobile device this is cool stuff.



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Sunday, February 18, 2007 1:16:07 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Saturday, April 29, 2006

I saw United 93 last night with a friend. Watching the film and knowing it was more documentary than drama, re-living the events that happened on September 11th, 2001 from the viewpoints of people in the air traffic control centers, on the planes, and having to make hard, nearly impossible decisions... Well, it was powerful.

View the trailer here. And then go see this film. Don't expect any fancy special effects, cliche character development or high-drama storyline. Do expect to be taken back and to live a little of what others were experiencing while you were in your kitchen, office, bedroom, car - or wherever you were when airliners hit the trade center and the Pentagon. And, of course, that field in Pennsylvania.

Powerful. Upsetting. Respectful. Well-done. Important.



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Saturday, April 29, 2006 9:30:28 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, April 02, 2006

Ahh, movie weekends.

Scrat - Ice Age 2I went with a friend to watch Ice Age 2 yesterday afternoon. I had, I must admit, somewhat low expectations of this one just because the first one was well-done enough to be hard-to-follow. But regardless of what Roger Ebert says, I enjoyed it. Sure, it's not as original as the first one (it is a sequel to an animated feature after all), but it had me laughing out loud at times, so in my book that means success. It has the standard fare of little kids' stuff plus some funny, subtle adult stuff (right from the beginning). The scenes featuring Scrat, the little sabre-toothed squirrel, are terrific and the story itself is not too bad. As Ebert points out, none of the characters ever seem to eat, and how the meat eaters could possibly survive if everyone in the animal kingdom (with the exception of the fish) just gets along so swimmingly (pun intended) is a mystery. But hey, again it's an animated movie, and I can live with it. I own the first film on DVD, and I'll be buying this one, too when it comes out. If for no other reason, just because there's bound to be more Scrat scenes in the extras.

Simpsons Homer BartBefore the feature film started, though, along came a surprise trailer (or "preview" for those of you who prefer that term) for "The Simpsons Movie, coming to the screen, July 27, 2007." Woah, cool. I had to do a second take - 2007? Okay, okay I can wait - but like Homer says, "Oh oh, we better get started!" Supposedly (according to The Hollywood Reporter, anyhow) the trailer will also air tonight prior to the Sunday evening Simpsons episode on FOX (which means it will be posted all over the Internet by the time the first commercial break is over). I just hope the hype doesn't create expectations that can't possibly be met. Note that "simpsonsmovie.com" is registered to 20th Century Fox but there's no web site attached to that address as of this writing. And by the way, on a related note, if you have not seen the "real-people" version of the Simpsons TV show intro you can go here - and you can compare the cartoon version and the live version side by side here. Rumor has it, too, that the live-action version will appear on the Simpsons TV show tonight. Either that or this is all one big April Fools joke. Hope not.

King KongFinally, on Friday I bought a copy of King Kong on DVD and took it home, where we loaded it up and gave it a run at blowing out  the speakers in my home theater. The speakers survived that attack, but it sure is amazing what incredible sound and special visual effects we get from movie makers these days - and in our own homes too boot. I remember when Dolby ProLogic surround was way cool - and now it sounds like oatmeal. It makes me wonder what's next. And DVDs sure are coming out more and more quickly these days. Didn't we just watch King Kong in theaters? Anyhow, it's worth the purchase if you liked the movie or if you want something to stress test that audio system with heavy bass and loud growls with lots of dynamic range.



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Sunday, April 02, 2006 9:47:27 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, March 05, 2006

I noticed that the nominees for this year's Academy Awards in the "Best Live Action Short Film" category are downloadable on iTunes. Wow, so cool - I'm a fan of good film quality, and nothing beats the under-thirty-minute format for making a real impact, without the typical fluff and other Hollywood-formula junk.

So, I downloaded. And watched. And so here you go - my own impressions, which will hopefully inspire you to watch. It doesn't have to be in your local theater to be good. In fact, if it's in the local theater, well... Never mind. Let's just stay focused on these short films.

First of all, if you have iTunes and a spare $10 (like as in total - you can get them all for less than ten bucks), then my first suggestion is that you should download them and watch (links to iTunes music store). They range in length from about 14 to 28 minutes, there are five films in the category, and they're certainly worth watching. It makes for a great evening, and it's an easy, painless way to expand one's film horizons, just slightly.

The second thing is, you won't want to watch all of these with the little kids. There's nothing really gross or pornographic, but there is some explicit content (nudity, language and violence) in a couple of them, and the content in others can occasionally be a bit heavy or dark for some.

That said, here are five short films you should watch, and what I thought of each:

Our Time Is Up (in iTunes)

This is the story of an American psychologist who finds he has a short time left to live, and how that impacts his relationships with his patients. It's well-done and the main character is played by Kevin Pollak. I liked this film at times. It's funny in a smart kind of way, and it's well-shot and the direction is interesting. But in the end, something about it felt, well, thin. Kind of like the way fast food fills your stomach but leaves you wishing there was something more. Certainly worth watching, but probably not one I would vote for, given the competition.

Six Shooter (in iTunes)   UPDATE: Oscar Winner

From the opening line, this is a dark, confrontational Irish film, which won the Oscar in the category of Best Live Action Short Film. The story plays character off of character to show how people deal with death and emotion, and how those differences - in hyperbole - affect one another. It's a smart film, one that slaps your sensibilities in the face and challenges the viewer to stay with the film, in the same difficult way the characters either choose to stay or go, I suppose. This is one of the two short films that gets an explicit label, for the violence and language. Be forewarned - If you have a hard time with dark themes of death and violence, this one may not be for you. For me, knowing ahead of time was enough. It's well-shot and the direction is very good. A young actor named Ruaihidhri Conroy steals the scene later in the film. Be prepared for the violence and murder/suicide themes and you should do okay.

Cashback (in iTunes)

From the UK comes a great short that will leave you thinking and laughing. By the way, this is the other film that gets an explicit rating, but for a different reason: This time it's because of the camera imagery of the female body, and I will leave it at that. The contrast of the characters is very subtle and the premise if great. A young man works nights in a grocery store, and the film examines the others who work there and how the pass the time. It's clever and funny, very well-directed and filmed. Sometimes simple and clever combine in a writer's mind to create something special - this is one example. Again, there's full-frontal nudity in this (not really distasteful, just a hard-to-explain surprise if you're watching with the young kiddies) and that's not explained on iTunes specifically, so watch appropriately and all. I really liked this one, and I laughed out loud at the last line.

Ausreisser (The Runaway) (in iTunes)

This is a great film. Of them all, it's right up there with two others for my vote (If I had a vote, that is). This German film shows a one-day interaction between a boy and his father, who never knew he had a son and has never wanted one. But it's much more special than that, and writing anymore would just take away from the film itself. The little boy portrays the part well, the direction cuts the scenes craftfully to keep things moving effectively. It's a sad, happy, sad, happy, sad again film that leaves you wondering if it was really only 23 minutes long. Well-directed, well-acted and well-shot, the only people who won't like it will be those who find themselves sitting there at the end muttering to themselves "I didn't get it." I love a good smart, emotional, intimate and personal film about two people and what really matters, and this is it. Well done.

The Last Farm (in iTunes)

This film comes from Iceland and is an amazingly well-crafted set of visuals and character play that paints a vivid picture of a man in deep sorrow. You may know what's coming, but in the end, don't we all? I think that's the point, or at least it's one of them. This film does such a terrific job of conveying so many complex, intertwined messages in such a short time. It's very sad and quite touching. If nothing else, it shows the simultaneous detailed complexity and abstract simplicity of the human spirit and how one's spirit can be so tightly tied to another. Excellent film. (Note: the iTunes reviews seem to have some twelve-year-olds that are giving it one star because the preview is not helpful, which skews the overall rating of the film itself, which is quite positive) 

So, which one do I like best? Well, honestly the one that stands out in my mind the most is The Runaway. It's a personal story that connects. The others that I rated with five light bulbs (heh) are also terrific, and any of those I think should get the award. More important than which gets the Oscar, I think, is the fact that not enough people get to see these types of films. My intent here was not to convince someone which I think is best, but rather to convince people to watch all these great little films, ones that they otherwise might miss.

So, go buy your tickets - all of them for ten bucks - and watch!

If you happen to be in a really big city, you might be able to see them in a theater, too.



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Sunday, March 05, 2006 11:10:36 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Friday, December 16, 2005

I suppose there's a chance I'm the last person in the world to watch The Polar Express. I rented it tonight, I suppose due to a subconscious need to find a little holiday something or another.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're really missing out.

I can remember (vaguely) being the kid on this movie. Each of them, actually. I think that's why it's such a great story and film. And what a great message.

If you've not seen it, or if you know someone who doesn't believe anymore, rent the DVD, settle in for the night, and get a little bit of your life back. I think you'll be glad you did. This has to be one of the better movie experiences in some time. I can't believe I missed it til now.

And if you're lucky enough to be near an IMAX theater, you might be able to go see it there - in 3D, which Roger Ebert says is an incredible experience. Here in Portland, it's 2D at the OMSI OmniMax theater, but it's on the big dome screen.



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Friday, December 16, 2005 9:51:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, September 05, 2005

I rented Sin City the other day. Now, I was prepared for the fact that it was going to be a violent, even offensive film. What I wasn't ready for was the fact that it's an incredibly well-made, artistic film.

This movie, like no other made to date, truly feels like a dark comic book. It's all about the thousands of little details. From Bruce Willis' long coat blowing in the breeze in a way that could never quite happen in real life, to the stylized color (usually red) details on black and white film, it's all a fairly amazing visual experience.

That said, the comic-book-like style is more a description than an audience defining mechanism. This is not a movie for kids. It's completely and totally R-rated, all the way to the far edge of the rating system. It's violent, crude, sexual and doesn't hold back.

I don't know how many people get knocked out from a single punch to the face or have their heads shoved into an unflushed toilet in this film, but it's plenty.

If you're squeamish, don't watch this one. If you're into dark, dark, dark comic books and get into visual blood, gore and guts stylized somewhere between comic-book-fake and real-as-life, you'll probably like this one a lot. You're also likely a borderline sociopath, but hey - that's beside the point. Enjoy.



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Monday, September 05, 2005 5:57:39 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Saturday, July 16, 2005

UnderdogOh, if this turns out to be true, this could end up being my favorite movie of the decade. You think I'm lame for it? Fine, I can live with that...

Dude, Underdog is going to be a freakin' movie star.

Shoe Shine Boy's alter ego (that would be Underdog for the uninitiated) was my number one favorite cartoon character when I was a kid. I still keep thinking I'm going to get an underdog tattoo one of these days (I almost did a while back, but got a different one instead).

It sounds like it might not be a cartoon, though. Something about a real dog and CG. Hopefully they can pull it off and not ruin the name, heh. We'll see.

BTW, I found this while checking out the blog at the Delta Park Project (I met Jason of DPP today at a podcast/videoblog roadshow meetup in Portland - cool dude).

More info about the movie? Ya you betcha, available at Empire Movies. And about.com (pronounced 'uh-boat'). Or just Google it.



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Saturday, July 16, 2005 8:06:58 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Wednesday, July 06, 2005

WHAT YOU SAY???

Zero Wing meets Star Wars in the English translation of the Chinese translation of the English version of Revenge of the Sith, a.k.a. "Backstroke of the West."

Click here for full details and a bunch of laughs. It gets fairly colorful.

Sw15

Swb36ty

Swb84iu

[via Rory]



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Wednesday, July 06, 2005 8:54:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, May 09, 2005

RevengeoftheSith_PosterJudging from what Jason Calacanis has to say (as well as from the early reviews of a few others), the newest Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, should be great. In fact, Jason says it's the best one of them all:

"Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith is the greatest Star Wars film of all time.

As any Star Wars fan knows the most accepted ranking of the films is:

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode IV: A New Hope (the original Star Wars)
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Episode II: The Clone Wars
Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

You can now put Revenge of the Sith as number one, although I suspect some small percentage of folks might put it in the second position after The Empire Strikes Back."

Jason has also posted a podcast (MP3 recording) review of the film, so check it out if you're interested.

Even Kevin Smith (yes, that Kevin Smith) loved it (Caution - contains Plot Spoilers, so don't read it if you want to be surprised when you see the film! - link):

"...this flick is so satisfyingly tragic, you'll think you're watching "Othello" or "Hamlet."

"Look, this is a movie I was genetically predisposed to love. I remember being eight years old, and reading in "Starlog" that Darth Vader became the half-man/half-machine he was following a duel with Ben Kenobi that climaxed with Vader falling into molten lava. Now, twenty six years later, I finally got to see that long-promised battled - and it lived up to any expectation I still held. I was sad to see the flick end, but happy to know it's not the end of the "Star Wars" universe entirely (I've read stuff about a TV show...). "

(in part via Scoble's LinkBlog, in part via all that is Google)



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Monday, May 09, 2005 6:26:47 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, April 11, 2005

One of my favorite movies of 2004 was just released on DVD. I received mine on Friday, despite the fact that Amazon says it has not been released yet... The release date is supposed to be April 19th. If you know anything about the plot of this movie, this time shift on the DVD release is a complete mind mess.

Anyhow, I bought two copies of Primer from Amazon.com. Because I want to support movies like this and the people that make them. It's awesome.

This movie was made on a $7,000 budget by a first-time movie maker, and it beats the pants off most films made these days. It was even recently selected for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival.

And one of the best things about Primer is that it takes your brain for a twister of a ride, gives it a real workout. It's fun, it's smart, it's complicated, it's unique. It's a movie people will appreciate when they see it. If they see it. And you should see it.



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Monday, April 11, 2005 10:24:50 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, March 10, 2005

CG has sure come a long way since 1977. The new movie trailer for Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith just played for the fist time at the end of The OC on television. Looks interesting.

I can't say it got my blood pumping or made me jump up and down and cheer, but the saga concludes with this one, so it better be good!

Next on the agenda, CSI is coming on right now, and although I don't normally watch it, Wil Wheaton's got a role on the show. Just saw his name on the screen in the opening credits. Coolio - Gotta go watch.

Update: Hey Wil - you play crazy and homeless pretty darn well!! Well-done, congrats!




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Thursday, March 10, 2005 9:09:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ep3Yesterday I mentioned the HHGTTG trailer. But there's another trailer out (it may have been out for a while, not sure?) for a film that just a few people are anticipating, as well.

Update - Rick fills us in on a new trailer about to come out: "That's a pretty old trailer. A new one comes out online 03-14, but you can see it in the theater before Robots starting 03-11, or during the OC on 03-10."

Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith opens in theaters on May 19th. A trailer is available online. Looks like it might be cool, but history has proven it's a little hard to tell with Star Wars movies. I hope it is. And I hope they don't spend too much time showing Darth Vader slowly "rising," rotating mechanically to an upright position on some metal contraption. Freakin' pull that awesome Vader-virtual-choke-hold thing on someone or cut someone's arm off or something! Armies of Wookies... Better than Jar Jar for sure... Hmmmm, this one might be cool.

When the first Star Wars movie came out back in 1977, I had just turned 10 years old. It showed for more than a year off and on (more on than off) as a matinee film in my home town. I saw it dozens of times with my friends. We were young upcoming geeks and nerds, living in the ultimate little incubator of geeks and nerds. So, it doesn't actually matter to me whether the movie is good or not, it represents coming full circle on a long journey of sorts. Well, metaphorically anyhow.

Did you know??? The original script name for the original Star Wars film (Episode IV) was "Adventures of the Starkiller: Episode 1 - The Star Wars." Sure am glad they changed that.

Anyhow, check out the Episode III online trailer, and enjoy. But if you're into this stuff and don't mind getting sucked in for a few hours, there's also a bunch of cool videos about the making of Episode III available here, and some concept art used in the making of the film can be seen here.



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Sunday, March 06, 2005 8:45:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, March 05, 2005

HhggtrailerOne of the best books ever is about to be released as a movie. It opens in theaters on April 29th.

Attention businesses of Earth: We hereby call for all businesses to close their doors for one day to allow all workers to see the film on opening day. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Trailer: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 
(note: huge smooth QuickTime file -see below for options)

The official film web site (with more trailers in different formats and other cool stuff) is here.

This is going to be AWESOME.



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Saturday, March 05, 2005 7:22:09 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, February 19, 2005

Primer_dvdIf you're not lucky enough to have already seen Primer, a first-time film by Shane Carruth that he made simply because he wanted to, you can’t actually see it right now. I saw it at Gnomedex last fall – it was the closing night event, and while only a portion of us who attended the conference watched the film, those who did thought it was great.

And you will too.

Primer is the sleeper movie that will make it’s way into lots of living rooms this spring, via DVD. You can actually order it now from Amazon.com for shipping when it's released.

Primer won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize last year. If you like movies that make you watch, challenge your mind, tell a great story, won't let you forget about them, and which successfully don't fit the typical Hollywood mold, this one you will want to see.

Carruth made the film on a $7000 budget, which is amazing. Just knowing that, watching the film is a lot of fun. Add the fact that it's well-thought-out, well-writen and generally very well done and you get a lot of bang for the buck.

"An engineer builds a machine (quite by accident) that can transport the user back in time. But his discovery comes with an ominous caveat, because at the heart of this puzzling device, nothing is as it seems on the surface. The narrative inventively blends a patchwork story line with overlapping streams of dialogue that help build tension and suspense..."

Tell Blockbuster, Hollywood, NetFlix.com and others you want to see this film when it comes out on DVD on April 5th. Or pre-order now like I did.



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Saturday, February 19, 2005 8:42:53 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, December 30, 2004

I used to go to practically every new movie that came out, when it was in the theaters, often on opening day. For some reason that just doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. At any rate, what this means is that there are lots of movies coming out on DVD right now that I have not seen.

So, this weekend, I have no less than six movies to distract me while I work on revising documents on the computer for work and generally trying to catch up. I have this cool home theater room that has also been neglected of late, and I need to put it back to good use, as long as I’m stuck at home healing.

  • Dawn of the Dead (“Unrated” version – heard it was “awesome.” Of course, it was a bunch of 20–year-olds who told me that, but they’re usually right, and I remember previewing the original version way back in the 80’s at a pre-release screening in Denver. That version was gory and cool, albeit without the final soundtrack and stuff. Such is the way of pre-release market screening. Saw the Rocky movie with the Russian guy that day, too pre-release. It pretty much sucked.)
  • Anchorman (heard it was pretty darn funny)
  • Day After Tomorrow (heard it was pretty darn stupid (premise-wise), but the special effects look like they might be really 1337)
  • Dodgeball (which I hear is freakin' hilarious)
  • Spiderman 2 (I saw this one in the theaters, but it’s worth re-watching. Plus, see the LegoFilms version here)
  • I-Robot (Wil Smith is cool, and this film isn’t, like, great – but it is pretty damn good and fun)


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Thursday, December 30, 2004 10:02:45 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, December 09, 2004

Seriously. My sensibility hurts.

At the invitation of a friend, I went to the movies tonight, and saw The Grudge.

Sheez. Now there’s something like two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I’m not the kind of person to talk out loud in movies, but this one sucked so hard I couldn’t help myself. It’s was editorial comment after editorial comment. And you know what? I wasn’t the only one. And on top of that, NO ONE complained about the out-loud commentary that was going on. That should tell you something.

I’m not even going to explain why it sucked. That would simply do the film too much justice, and someone might spend enough time reading this to subconsciously convince themselves they should see it. DON’T!

And that’s all I have to say about that…



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Thursday, December 09, 2004 11:57:11 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Click for the trailerIf you’re a Lord of the Rings movie fan (and hey, what geek isn’t?), probably the best DVD release of the series is about to happen.

A four-disc Platinum Series “Special Extended Edition” of the Return of the King (a Platinum special edition collector set version is also available) will be released with a shipping date of December 14th, with many additional scenes chosen by the director – There’s 50 minutes of new footage and 20+ hours (yes, hours) of bonus materials. That means the feature movie is 250 minutes long and pressed onto two DVD discs. Two additional DVDs, called “The Appendices,” contain tons of behind-the-scenes and complimentary content and documentaries.

A new online trailer gives a sneak preview of some of the additions, along with commentary by the director and actors.

Buy it online if you want to get a head-start:

(via GeekRoar)



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Tuesday, November 30, 2004 10:51:53 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, September 08, 2004

/me marks September 21st on my calendar...

On that day, the first three Star Wars films (Episodes IV-VI: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) will be released on DVD after having been digitally cleaned up. Lowry Digital Images assigned 80 employees and 600 networked Power Mac G5 computers with the equivalent of 378 terabytes (378 million megabytes) of hard-disk storage to take the original films to their DVD boxed set release.

from USA Today and Paul Thurrott via Scoble



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Wednesday, September 08, 2004 10:56:32 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, September 06, 2004

Via Newsweek and PVRBlog:

“... now couch potatoes are perched on the cusp of true paradise. Soon they won't even have to stand up to trudge to the mailbox; fat broadband pipes will let them directly download movies over the Net to their television ...

“... In an interview with NEWSWEEK last year, CEO Reed Hastings predicted that by the end of the decade, Netflix will deliver most of its rentals over the Net, supplanting its distribution centers and trademark red envelopes. "We named the company Netflix, we didn't name it DVD by Mail," he said.”

Nice - so if I am subscriber to both TiVo and Netflix (which I am), I can order my movies and have them downloaded straight to my TiVo for viewing? Woah, cool!

Keeping my eyes open for this one. Something tells me I'll have to have a series 2 TiVo, though... Like the one I was eye-balling at Frys yesterday... Might just have to finally give up on the haX0red series one box.



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Monday, September 06, 2004 4:11:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, August 06, 2004

I am watching Kill Bill Vol. 1 at home with a friend. I saw the second movie when it was in the theaters earlier this year, and of course I also saw this one when it came out originally.

This is one movie that just keeps getting better. It was good the first time, and especially after the second movie, it's just good to watch again and again.

And Volume 2 will be released on DVD on August 10th. Yes!

QT rules.



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Friday, August 06, 2004 8:29:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, July 23, 2004

Awesome stuff, whether you like Legos, Spiderman movies, or both. Come on, you know you like both...

Check it out:

http://movies.yahoo.com/movies/feature/spiderman2qt.html



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Friday, July 23, 2004 4:04:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I just ran across PeerFlix, which is using an interesting variation on the NetFlix business model. You let PeerFlix know what movies you own, as well as the ones that you want to see. Then you send your movies to others using the service, and they do the same.

Looks like the cost is lower than NetFlix, and they have a pay-as-you-go option as well as an unlimited number of monthly trades for $10 per month. You trade DVDs you own, and the company covers loss, theft, etc.

It's an interesting concept, and I might even try it out. I've subscribed to NetFlix for a few years now, but this looks like it has the potential to work. Not sure how the selection would be (although they claim 30,000 titles) or how easy it would be to get what you want (NetFlix is great for finding interesting titles on their web site that I otherwise might never know about), but it's intriguing, and I have a few DVDs around that others might be interested in, and for which I have no real use.

Might be a workable business model based on the “one man's junk” philosophy.



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Tuesday, May 25, 2004 10:19:27 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Nothing like a well-made DVD package to make a 200-minute film bearable. I wasn't a huge fan of the second film in the LOTR trilogy, and this third film's definitely long, but you have to hand it to 'em - pretty amazing what they did with all three films.

By the way: Why anyone would want to watch this film in the cropped, “full-screen” version is beyond me, but it's available if you're into that kind of thing. But I think they should make cropped versions illegal or something. Well maybe not actually illegal, but stop shipping them, they suck. Granted, not everyone has the home theater projector setup that I recently dropped some cash on (I need to post more about that and why it's a good idea and most cost-effective), but arbitrarily cropping a film is about as blasphemous toward the filmmaker as one can be, if you ask me. It's probably the former photographer in me that thinks that, but hey it's art, and I think one should enjoy it the way it was meant to be seen.

Anyhow, as I was saying, this is a film that was born to be seen on DVD as well as in a theater, and it's good that videotape is a thing of the past. Between the great (okay, awesome) CG work (Gondor is pretty incredible and the battles are amazing), the terrific enhanced digital surround sound, and the fact that you can actually pause it to take a [insert bathroom metaphor here] in the middle without missing anything (200 minutes is a long time, man...), this is a hi-def showcase film.

There's really only one thing about these three films that drives me freaking crazy: Every other scene is a cut over to Sam and Frodo climbing up or down some rocky slope of varying grade, and upon closer inspection, each of these scenes are essentially the same:

< Scene cut to Sam and Frodo and possibly Gollum >

Sam:  Ohhhhhh, Frodo!

Frodo:  Ohhhhhh, Sam!

Sam:  Ohhhhhhhhhh, Frodo!

Frodo:  Ohhhhh, SAM!

Gollum:  Hurry, hobbitses, Hurry! Come! Come!

Now that I think about it, the script reads a little bit like a (very) bad adult film out of context, but that's not my point. What I mean to say here is that I wish they had taken the Sam and Frodo characters' development a little further, past their simple and incessant whining about how sorry their situation is, over and over and over and... Anyhow, we got the point already. Or maybe it's just me, I dunno. I realize it's all about two little guys succeeding at the improbable, but sheez... Anyhow, I digress...

In contrast, the Merry and Pippin hobbit characters are more developed in this one, which was good.

Recommended. Fun film, and other than whiny “hobbitses” and the weird talking trees making a cameo return appearance, pretty darn cool. My sub-woofer got a real workout.

If you like movies that are meant to be played loud at home on your super-duper surround system, and if you like dark battles and stuff, it's a treat. And if you're still into this LOTR stuff at this late date, they have some cool screen savers and other stuff you can download.



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Tuesday, May 25, 2004 9:34:42 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, May 15, 2004

I saw “Man on Fire” today with friends. Not too bad. Not great, but all-in-all it was a fun and edgy film worth seeing.

Denzel Washington does what he seems to do best: He plays a completely controlled man whose life is otherwise out of control. He's holding his life together by sheer willpower, as they say. All that's dramatically offset (or complemented, depending on how you look at it) by the fact that he's clearly an alcoholic with a difficult past (more of what he can't seem to control), and a real desire to stop living his life. It's not necessarily that he wants to die, but you do get the impression he's not really interested in living his life anymore.

So, in true modern-American studio-produced film fashion, a strong-willed child enters his life (can you say Sixth Sense?) and changes the man - for the better, of course.

Washington plays a former assassin, we assume for the CIA or similar, who goes to Mexico to visit a friend and former killer/co-worker. He takes a job as a bodyguard for a little girl whose parents make her a target for kidnapping by a band of organized criminals and corrupt police officials.

Knowing that, you can probably guess the key plot lines in this film, and you'd be right. But after all, how many times can movie makers create films like this one and come up with something new? This film is done over and over again, in one script or another, so there's nothing really earth-shattering here.

Still, it is a fun film, and the camera work and post-production editing is pretty effective, so it stands out for those reasons. There's a lot of character development going on, at least in the beginning, and that's kind of unusual for this type of film. But ultimately it becomes a violent killing spree movie, with blood and vengeance typical of the angry-tired-burned-out-guy-pushed-over-the-edge film genre. So, depending on who you are you'll either love or hate the second half of the film. Luckily, much of the violence takes place just off camera, but you still see the spattered blood and hear the screams.

I especially enjoyed the confrontations between Washington's characters and the bad guys. The scene where Washington's character extracts information from the first in a series of criminal thugs was great, as was the  same scene played out a few characters later under the overpass (pretty crappy way to die).

The occasional fade-in subtitles when people were speaking Spanish were great, until they started applying subtitles to spoken English (with subtitles also in English, duh). When the subtitles went from practical and useful translation to artsy-fartsy subtitles-for-emphasis, it got a little weird for me.

Denzel Washington can carry pretty much any character (man, has he made a lot of movies recently), and he certainly has to in this film, which lasts somewhere around two and a half hours. It didn't seem that long though. The young actress who played the little girl in the film (Dakota Fanning) also carried a lot of the weight, even when on the screen with Washington, which is really saying something.

For people who enjoy a good action film with a decent story and can handle the mad-revenge kind of violence, this one is worth seeing. If you don't have the stomach for a killing spree, ya better stay home.



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Saturday, May 15, 2004 10:57:06 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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