Sunday Jan 27, 2008

Three TV Programs And A Movie

TV viewing for me since autumn the fall has mostly been the same old programs that I watched in the previous season. I did start out watching Bionic Woman but gave up just before they stopped airing it. I found it too depressing. Too much angst being thrown about.

I stumbled upon Woman's Murder Club just before its season started and love it. It's got Angie Harmon in it, so that's a big plus, but the rest of the cast interact well, it's got interesting plots, that are very funny at times and it's based in San Francisco. So far they've done 10 episodes (out of a planned season of 13), but the writers strike has forced it off the air at the moment. Lynea did find the first four James Patterson Murder Club books at the local library book sale of Friday night, so I know what I'll be reading soon.

The other "new" one I'm going to try is Dexter. Even though it was first broadcast on Showtime (which we don't get), it's going to be aired on CBS next month (again, due to the writer's strike). I hope they don't butcher it too much.

Onto the film. About a week ago, we all watched The Simpsons Movie. As Homer says, why go to a theater to watch this when you could be watching in on your TV at home? So true. So that's what we did. After watching SpongeBob fail to make a good transition to the big screen, I was wondering how well this one would do. I don't know, but watching it on TV feels like a really good long single episode.

But here's the difference. The material is new. The jokes are almost continuous. There is a good plot. They don't try to show every character that ever appeared in the TV shows, in the film. Highly recommended.

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Wednesday Jan 02, 2008

High Definitions Videos From Monterey Bay Aquarium

Many thanks to Eugenia for commenting on my previous post and then making these exceptional video's available.

There is video of at least of ten of the creatures I photographed on Monday. In comparison, they make my pictures, look like Polaroids from the '80's.

As she writes:

Download the source 720p video file on the right sidebar, rename it as .mp4 and watch it via an AppleTV, PS3 or XBoX360 on your HDTV.

Shot with a Canon HV20 in PF24/Cinemode. Pulldown removed with Cineform NeoHD. Edited with Vegas Pro 8, graded with Magic Bullet. Music and video are licensed separately under the Creative Commons "BY" 3.0 license.

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Monday Jan 16, 2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We did get to see the latest Potter movie this weekend, as I'd hoped on Friday. Very enjoyable. It's now got to the point where each new film feels like yet another installment (albeit a long one) in a favorite entertainment series.

For example, you are expected to know who everybody is. They jump right into the story. No recap for those patrons who might have been living on another planet for the last four years. It really helps to have read the books but it also helps (in my case) to have forgotten the nitty-gritty details. Watching the film made them all flood back which was a bonus.

At times, I found myself forgeting that the special effects were not real. Okay, it was obvious for the mer-people in the lake, but the dragon battle and the coach with the flying horses were so wonderfully done and so well embedded in the real-world footage.

It was nice to see more British actors appearing in the film, that I grew up watching on TV (Eric Sykes and Frances de la Tour). The familiarity of the older performers is just another warm feeling I get from the Potter movies.

The three main kids (Harry, Hermione and Ron) are starting to look beyond their supposed ages now (14). That's going to be blatently obvious for the last three films (assuming they use the same actors, and I hope they do).

Lastly, I don't know which worries me more. Parents who take their young children to see a film like this or the fact that the kids don't appear to be visibily affected by it. There were several such families in the theater. Just in front of us were a Mum and Dad totally engrossed in the movie, with their two small kids (I'd guess six and four) in between them. There are a lot of violent episodes in the movie. For example, where Lord Voldmort is torturing Harry Potter who is being held by the Death Eater statue. I looked over to this family while that was going on. The parents were being enthralled by the action and so apparently were the kids.

Perhaps there is no emotional scarring going on here. Perhaps this is all water of a ducks back to the latest generation who are immersed in this sort of thing from such an early age. Perhaps the kids are able to happily separate fantasy from reality.

Personally, I think I'm going to go on being an over-protective parent for a few years more.

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Tuesday Nov 01, 2005

Serenity

At the beginning of the year, I mentioned that there were several films being made this year that would be based on TV series.

The one that was of particular interest to me was Serenity, which would be based on the TV series Firefly which was on FOX a couple of years ago, but was unexpectedly cancelled. Firefly was a great TV series. It was just getting interesting when it was canned.

Our son had an unexpected sleepover last Friday, so it was an opportunity for my wife and I to finally get out and see Serenity before it disappeared off the big screens.

Spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen this film already, and you like science fiction, stop reading this now, waste no time and head out to your local theater right away before it's too late.

Others have blogged already about how great this film is. I've got to agree with them. If you hadn't seen Firefly, you might not pick up on all the tag-lines and in-jokes from the TV series, but the film is still a self-contained entity and you should be able to understand what's going on.

The film is very intense at times. Just when you think things are slowing down and the action is over for the moment, something unexpected happens that'll leave you gasping.

A good attempt was made to tie up all the loose ends from the TV series and to explain exactly what it was all about. I liked that River's character was expanded to its full potential and details were given on why she was like she was. The TV series really only hinted at this.

Nice to see all the actors from the TV series were in the film. The humor in the film is so subtle and really is a major win for me. Original dialogue, good emoting all around. Great visuals; both the CGI and the shots of the actors against various backgrounds. I would like to have heard an explanation of Sheperd Book's past life. There was only a one-liner in the movie on this and that didn't resolve this at all.

Others have hinted that there might be another film coming from Joss Weldon using the same Serenity crew. That seems unlikely to me. They did leave it open enough at the end, but there would have to be a completely new plot developed in order for this to happen.

Still, if it happens, I'll be there. I'll also be looking out for any other new movies by Joss (like Wonder Woman).

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Monday Oct 17, 2005

Wallace and Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

It's been over four months since we all went to a movie at the local theater. This time it was to see the latest animation/claymation work from Nick Park, released through Dreamworks SKG.

Minor spoilers ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Before the Wallace and Gromit film, was also an excellent short animated movie featuring the four penguins from the Madagascar film. It also features a small dog whose "worrying" abilities make our little doggie look positively comatose. Lots of sight gags and physical humour, the latter of which gave Duncan the giggles through most of the movie.

Then onto the main movie. For those of you who have seen any of the Wallace and Gromit shorts, this was more of that, only longer (85 minutes worth). I noticed there was more humour of a sexual nature then previous W&G movies, and that it would have just gone over the heads of all the little kiddies watching it.

I also saw the Ebert and Roper review from about a week ago. Ebert liked it; Roper didn't. Not enough laugh-out-loud humour for him. (He also mumbled something about British humour). That's not what we found. There were lots of places where the audience were really into it. It even got a round of applause (justly deserved) at the end. We certainly gave it three thumbs up.

And yet another DVD to buy when it comes out.

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Monday Sep 05, 2005

Team America: World Police

Dear blog, it's been over three months since my last film review, so let's rectify that now. I can't do that with giving away some spoilers, so if that doesn't butter your toast, you know what to do. I'll try to keep it minimal though.

My wife took our son out to the birthday party of one of his friends yesterday afternoon. I had the house to myself. I could do anything or go anywhere! What should I do? I seriously considered sleeping first but then decided instead to watch this "On Demand" movie made with puppets. The unedited version.

I went into this not knowing exactly what to expect. Team America: World Police had been described to me as Thunderbirds for adults. Well, I liked Thunderbirds when I was a kid. That sounds alright. I knew that the Director/Writer/Main Voice Talent was Trey Parker of South Park fame, but as I've never seen that (yes, I admit it) I still wasn't sure what that would give me (apart from some very profane dialog).

Did I like it? (Four letter expletive deleted) yeah! I loved that the strings on the puppets were visible (except for scenes like the romantic close-ups). The made up foreign languages. The complete over-the-top violence and senseless destruction. The dead pan humor. The musical numbers. The scenes that parodied scenes from other films. Just watching puppets trying to do some of this is hilarious.

I like the tribute to the old Thunderbirds shows. And the spoofing thereof. Is it just me, or does Lisa looked remarkably like Lady Penelope?

So what was in the unedited version that was different from the version that presumably made its way through theaters earlier this year? This was discussed on the IMDB web site (sorry, you'll have to register to find out). Interestingly there were four places in the film where I went Eeew! and I see they were all in the unedited version. Strangely enough the relentless expletives didn't bother me. Most of the sex scenes between Gary and Lisa I found funny rather than erotic or disgusting (if you've seen the unrated version, you can guess the two bits that I thought were gross).

Let's also not forget the character assasination of lots of Hollywood Celebrities and that "socialist weasel" Michael Moore. I thought the humour was just perfect, though I can't believe any of the actors in question were any too happy at this unauthorized use of their names. It's left me wondering how many law suits are now floating around because of this film.

If there was a poilitical statement to this film, then I entirely missed it. It has left me with a penchant to watch some South Park episodes though.

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Friday Aug 26, 2005

Spin

A pointer to this wonderful short film came over an internal mail alias today (thanks Alex!)

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Saturday Jun 04, 2005

Madagascar

Back from a Burridge movie outing. We Fandango'ed to get the cheap(er) seats for the first performance of the day. Seems like we weren't the only ones with this idea. The theatre was full of other families doing the same.

Couple of spoilers ahead. You know what to do if this bothers you.

We've been waiting a year (since the last Dreamworks animated movie) for this, and it was well worth the wait. A wonderful movie. The animation is superb. When I look at the graphics for water and fire nowadays, it's near impossible to discern that it's animated.

Voice overs are okay to good. There are lots of good jokes, most of them musical or visual in nature. You can spend a lot of time trying to find all the spoofs of other movies. My favorite was Alex on his knees, on the beach with the giant smoldering burnt-to-a-crisp statue, exclaiming, Darn it all to Heck! I sure hope someone does a "Cliff Notes" for this movie before the DVD comes out so I can find all the others.

The penguins made it perfect for me. There is one scene where they arrive in Antartica and are standing by the ship with the snow storm howling away. After about fifteen seconds of this, one penguin says "Well this sucks!" and they turn the ship around and head back to Madagascar. It's going to be one of those classic movie sequences that's going to be remembered for a long time.

I'll stop there before I give it all away. Suffice to say, that we all highly recommend this film. The "Move it, move it" song will get your kids dancing and prancing about all summer too.

There was a trailer for the Wallace and Gromit movie (coming to theatres in October this year) which was hilarious. That's going to be another "must see" visit to the big screen later this year.

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Friday May 27, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Just what the world needs. Another review of this movie. And a week late.

Spoilers ahead: stop reading now if that bothers you.

My wife and I saw the film in DLP at the Century 22 complex in San Jose. We are both big Star Wars fans and have been looking forward to seeing this for quite a while.

I'll resound what most others have said. Amazing visuals. Stilted dialogue. Same old awful attempts at humour. We loved it!

There were a couple places where I was laughing inappropriately. When the words of the plot story were being shown on the screen at the beginning, there is the line "Evil is everywhere". I initially read that as "Elvis is everywhere". This was immediately followed by the big space battle and Obi-Wan's craft is being attacked by all the machines; his whining reminded me of Wallace of Wallace and Grommit fame.

I got a little kick when Anakin says "R2D2, activate elevator 3224" as that's my Sun badge number. It's probably just a coincidence though.

So here's where the audience applauded. There weren't many occasions.

  • Obi-Wan kills General Grievous with the machine gun and comments how uncivilized that was.
  • A droid gets a shock from R2D2 then kicks it over.
  • Darth Vader put on his helmet and does his deep breathing for the first time.
  • Yoda nonchantly slams two of the Emperors guards into the wall.

There was also a little ripple of applause at the end.

We both thoughly enjoyed the movie, and when the Golden Master Directors Cut (or whatever its going to be called) of the six films is made available on DVD in a few months or so, we'll probably buy a set.

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Thursday Apr 07, 2005

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I'm counting the days. The film of the book (or the radio or TV series) is going to be released here in the U.S. on the 29th April. Decent trailers are now being shown on TV for it. They've also available from the official web site.

I should be thinking about the film with an open mind, but I know I'm going to be comparing it with the TV series, that I saw when it first came out on the BBC. For example, it's going to feel strange that Ford Prefect isn't a short white bloke and that Alan Rickman is going to be doing the voice of Marvin.

It'll also be interesting to see what 25 years of advances in CGI can do for film. This is definitely one I'll be watching on the big screen, then buying the DVD when it comes out.

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Monday Mar 28, 2005

The Chronicles of Riddick

Over the weekend, we tried out Comcast On Demand for the first time. It was primarily to watch The Chronicles of Riddick (more on that below), but after the film had ended, we browsed around to see what else they had. Lot's of free stuff, but I'm not sure how popular it's likely to be., (there's definitely some old Monty Python episodes I'll be watching though). The next day, Duncan also used it to watch a load of really old classic cartoons on Cartoon Network's Boomerang channel - anybody remember Space Ghost?

It's a long way from being the dream of watching any program/film ever created, but I did appreciate the ability to have play, pause, stop, rewind and fast-forward control over what I was watching. Now being able to skip to a specific "chapter" would have been even nicer.

Onto the film. I should note that I haven't seen Pitch Black, which is the prequel to this one, but I understand it was more horror than science fiction. This was definitely the other way around.

The visuals were excellent, performances okay (I was not expecting Shakespeare but I still want good dialogue), and I could live with the plot and technology inconsistencies when the action was well paced.

I kept wanting to compare it with other films that I'd seen though. For example, the scenes on board the main Necromonger ship reminded me of the palace screens in David Lynch's Dune. The plotting of Thandie Newton at Dame Vaako, reminded me of Lady Macbeth in Polanski's Macbeth and the prison scenes gave me flaskbacks to Outland.

If the mark of a good film is that you don't feel the need to turn it off or continually hit the fast-forward button, then this qualifies. Will I be getting it on DVD to keep? Probably not.

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Sunday Mar 13, 2005

Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow

One of the nice things about Duncan having a sleep-over at Grandma's, is that his parents can go out for a good meal at a fancy restaurant (Sundance Mining Company), and then watch a "grownup" movie that they've been wanting to see.

In hindsight, Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow, would have been just fine for a six year old to watch. Not too many scary bits, and the CG imagery takes away the realistic edge and makes it much less threatening.

The computer graphic generated settings were what made it for me in the end. I had no idea what to expect, other than this was a science fiction movie. From reading about it after seeing the film, I see that it was deliberately styled after 30's SF movies and it certainly felt very authentic in this respect. You have to totally suspend your belief in whether this could possibly happen. Some of the inconsistencies will make your brain hurt. Get past that and it's very enjoyable. I like films that are unpredictable and this is certainly that. I found the comic banter was entertaining at times and forced at others. The one-liner that ended the film was perfect.

For us, this film was definitely worth the price of a rental.

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Tuesday Jan 11, 2005

Remakes

Seems the Hollywood film companies are having trouble coming up with original new movies. According to the latest TV Guide, the following old TV shows are going to be remade into movies, some this year and some with dates TBA.

Lots of your favorite stars. Nicole Kidman as Samantha on Bewitched with Will Farrell as her hubby Darrin (and Shirley MacLaine as Endora) sounds intriging.

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Tuesday Dec 21, 2004

Elf

Warning: A couple of slight spoilers below. Don't read this if that bothers you.

We've been trying to get this on DVD for a while and all the stores we'd tried had sold out. Luckily we found it at the huge Borders bookstore in Sunnyvale yesterday morning as we did some last minute Christmas shopping. It was in the DVD player in the afternoon.

I'd seen the trailer umpteen times and found those scenes amusing. It's being called a classic and I immediately think, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I've got to agree. This is one of the better Christmas films I've seen in a while. Will Ferrell absolutely captures the part of Buddy, a human raised by elves. It's another film that's amazingly well done on two levels. Duncan saw this film through the eyes of a child who is waiting for Santa to deliver his stash of new toys in three days time. He was glued to the screen for all the parts with the Big Guy in the red suit in it. He loved the snowball fight and where Buddy tries to climb the Christmas tree to put the angel on top of it. Lynea and I were watching it at that other level, where there are real touches of grown-up humor. My favorites were the Bigfoot footage and the four riders of the Apocalypse.

It's predictable in places and surprising in others and enjoyable all the way through. This will be a keeper and I suspect we'll be dragging it again soon so the rest of the immediate family can view it.

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Sunday Nov 28, 2004

The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie

The family saw the SpongeBob movie at the local Century 16 cinema yesterday. We are all avid fans of the TV series on Nickelodeon and have probably seen nearly every episode (more than once). We know all the characters and what they do. We knew what to expect.

The movie is like a long SpongeBob TV episode. A painfully long episode.

Don't get me wrong. If you like the TV series and are a yound kid, you'll like this. If you are an adult, you might cringe in a couple of places. You might find it slow in a couple of places too. It starts out okay, jokes are quick and everything feels right, then it starts to fade near the end. It's really mostly Spongebob, Patrick, Plankton and three new characters; King Neptune, his daughter Mindy and Dennis. Plus an enlarged cameo appearance by David Hasselhoff. I liked that the film had an "if you believe in yourself, you can do it!" thread weaved into it. I'd have preferred to have seen a story with more Squidward, Sandy, Gary et al and less viewing of Hasselhoff's butt. And where was all that great SpongeBob swearing?

I didn't feel I gained much by seeing the cartoon on the big screen either. Whereas the graphics and animation of The Incredibles is just made for theatres, SpongeBob just looked Big.

I'm curious how well this movie will go over with folks who haven't seen SpongeBob before on cable. There must be one of two of them out there somewhere. There is a lot of knowledge that's gleaned from watching all the TV episodes that make certain scenes more understandable. Is there enough of a movie there to still be enjoyable, when you don't know this? Probably.

There was a good preview for An Unfortunate Series of Events, and even though I'm tiring of the books, I think the movie looks like it's going to be worth going to see.

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