Archive for September 2003

 
 

Baseball playoffs

A horrible thought just occured to me: What if the Cubs meet the Red Sox in the World Series? Do their respective curses kick in and nuclear war begins before the first game starts?!?

The Amazing Race is back on!

I guessed right: The Emmy win by THE AMAZING RACE spurred CBS on to renew the popular summer reality series for another season.

Check out the news reports here, here, or here.

New releases 30 Sept 2003

Since Netflix started working for me again, I don’t drool over this list as much anymore. I’m a more patient man. I can add a disc to my queue and know that eventually, I’ll get to see it. On the flip side, the discs I still do want to buy are most often the more expensive boxed sets. You can’t win in this game, can you?

The full DVD release list can be found at DVDJournal.com

2 Fast 2 Furious (widescreen) (2003)

I read recently where the director was attempting to make a Japanese anime movie in live action with this. For the first time, I’m slightly curious about the movie.


The Adventures of Robin Hood: Special Edition (2-disc set) (1938)

This contains the classic Chuck Jones/Mike Maltese short, ROBIN HOOD DAFFY. I believe it’s the first of the restored shorts to make it to DVD. This one is tempting. I’m such a fan of those shorts that I’d consider buying a two disc set for a single six minute cartoon. I need help.

Dawson’s Creek: Series Finale

Nope. I bought the first season set, and that’s it for me. I know the ending makes sense, but I still don’t want that to be the ‘official’ ending. The characters ceased to be likable for me.

Fargo (1996)

Re-released AGAIN?!?

Scarface: 20th Anniversary Edition (widescreen) (1983)

I’ll add this to the Netflix queue. I do want to see it. It’s Brian DePalma, who never makes a boring movie. They’re always interesting to look at, even when everything else fails.

The Tick: The Complete Series (2-disc set)

I know a lot of people who will be racing out to stores to pick this one up. I just never got into it.

Next Week: My favorite MST3K episode of all time, ALIEN FROM L.A. Unfortunately, this is the original version, and not the one with the bots heckling it. THE ITALIAN JOB looks to be the highlight of the week.

Dance Dance Revolution

A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to the wonder of Flash Flash Revolution. It has since infested the office, draining away ‘valuable’ work time as we try hard to master the LEFT-UP-DOWN-RIGHT arrow combination in all sorts of iterations.

Today, I stopped at Best Buy on my lunch break and two employees there had a DDR PlayStation2 game set up for people to try, complete with the mats. I avoided it, to save myself the embarrassment, but it is funny that I suddenly can’t get away from the thing.

The FFR game recently had an upgrade. The new version is a little more tedious to menu through, but the additional songs are well worth it. There are some great challenging tunes on there now. Still, I don’t try anything harder than the ))))) level. It’s much easier to play on a full-size keyboard, too. Laptops are not recommended with FFR.

Bulletproof Monk

Bulletproof Monk DVD cover
BULLETPROOF MONK was a dud when it hit the theaters last spring. Despite Chow Yun Fat’s presence, nobody seemed all that interested in it. It’s out on DVD now, and you can decide what you think of it from the comfort of your own home. Judging by the box office numbers, there’s a good chance you didn’t see it in the theaters.

The movie is a sad waste of great potential. The relationship between Yun Fat’s monk and Seann William Scott’s streetwise Kar is interesting, and they light up the screen together when they’re bantering back and forth. The movie has a good sense of humor. It also has a pretty cute fight scene between Kar and Jade. I’d hate to call it an erotic or sexy fight scene, but it is well choreographed.

Everything else is a waste. The plot uses Nazis as the villain, for starters. I don’t think that’s worked in an action/adventure film since INDIANA JONES. But the biggest waste is the action sequences. Those could have saved the movie, if they were at all believable. Instead, they’re hyper-edited even worse than ARMAGEDDON. The fight scenes might be well choreographed, but you’ll never see them. The quick cuts happen so fast and furious that things seem to happen out of order.

In comics, there’s a need to tell a story sequentially. One of the toughest things for artists to master is to tell the story with a progression of panels. You have to guide the reader’s eye along to show him what’s happening. BULLETPROOF MONK fails to do that — and it’s a live action movie! Camera angles are gratuitous, not well thought out, and a confusing jumble. I believe the director has a background in music videos. Not a surprise.

One last movie gripe: the soundtrack is wretched. It’s flat and sounds synthesized even though it’s not. It completely undercuts one or two action scenes, such as the rooftop fight with the helicopter.

The DVD is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some nice behind the scenes things, including an alternate ending, a look at the original comic the movie is based off of, and the standard behind the scenes stuff for a movie of this type. But there’s one huge mistake:

If you know what a layer switch is, skip ahead to the next paragraph. A single sided/single layer DVD can hold over 4 GB worth of data on it. Most DVDs are single sided/double layered to add an additional 4+ GB of data space. That’s about three hours of decent quality video. This means there are two layers of material on the same side of the disc and, at some point, the DVD player needs to switch from the first layer to the second. This usually results in a slight pause

Most layer switches occur during scene shifts, or in quiet moments. This minimizes the impact a two second freeze frame might have to the viewer. Some DVD players handle them almost without anyone being able to notice, but that’s rare.

BULLETPROOF MONK commits the cardinal sin of locating the layer switch in the middle of an action scene, as a character is seen hurtling through the air and crashing through a glass ceiling. This is, needless to say, DVD AUTHORING 101: Do not place a layer switch there!

So we learn a lot from BULLETPROOF MONK. First, it’s OK when ALIAS uses some extra edits to cheat and get an action sequence filmed in a week. It’s not so good when a feature film does it after training its leads for weeks in the techniques. Second, layer switches MUST happen in quiet moments. Third, Nazis are tired villains, unless it’s a period piece. Fourth, HARD BOILED is one of the greatest action movies of all time. Fifth, a bad soundtrack will stand out.

Save your money on this turkey.

The Ultimate TNG Boxed Set

I don’t know how many of these Paramount thinks they can possibly sell, but it definitely ranks up there as one of the coolest DVD boxed sets of all time. The Borg Megacube will collect all seven seasons of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION across 48 discs in a box shaped like a Borg cube.

Why? Because they can. Or, just as likely, they had a few extra sets of Seasons 1 – 7 sitting in the warehouse and decided to put them all together and see if they could do something different with the packaging.

Quote of the Week

Joe Rogan appeared early on in LAST COMIC STANDING, as one of the West Coast judges in the preliminary round. He appeared on TOUGH CROWD last week, alongside Dave Mordal, where he took the blame for Dat Phan:

“I thought Dat Phan was funny. He tricked me.”

At least he’s man enough to admit it.

Rachael Ray: America’s Sweetheart

Rachael RayThe article in ROLLING STONE magazine about the Olsen Twins was actually pretty nice, and didn’t cross the line. But FHM Magazine has truly gone too far (he says, tongue in cheek) for their October 2003 issue. They have an interview (complete with pictures) of Food Network sweetie Rachael Ray.

Just when you thought you had seen it all…



Various and Sundry @ One Year

I blew it. I knew the one year anniversary of this blog was coming up, but I thought it was at the end of the month. As it turns out, it was last week. September 17, 2002 was the first entry in this blog. This will be entry #765 or so. I wanted to do an entry a day, and I’ve managed to double it.

To celebrate, I’ve done a minor upgrade to some surface elements of the site. You’ll notice the little annoying graphics peppered up and down the right column of the screen. I hate web pages that use graphics where regular plain text will do. On the other hand, this is a web site set up so I could learn new things, and I had some fun with Illustrator in making those this morning. Besides, if everyone else does it, who will notice? Each graphic, BTW, is less than 2kb in size, so it shouldn’t really affect your loading speed for this page too much. They’re in .PNG format. If your web browser has a problem with that, I would suggest getting a real browser. ;-)

I’ve also put together a couple new banners. They’ll show up here and there.

The fonts all come from Blambot, in case your looking for some great and easy to use fonts for non-profit purposes…

Thanks for reading this past year. There’s lots more to come. I’m not stopping now.

Language-free California

Just bizarre.

Someone has posted MP3 files of some of the major candidates for California’s governorship. They’ve edited all the words out of it, though. Click here. I’m not even sure I can explain this properly.

I almost hyperventilate in response to just listening to it. Bizarre.

Bill Gates is how rich?

There’s a web site that tracks Bill Gates’ wealth and makes some attempts to explain just how much money $34 billion is.

Just remember: Take this web site lightly. If you truly believe Bill Gates will help the world by giving $40,000 to every homeless person in this country, you’d be fooling yourself.

And as much as I may dislike MicroSoft and its leader, I do give Gates credit on his charitable giving, and how he goes about educating himself about problems before just throwing money at them.

Friendster

Because I’m so damned hip and with it — and because I obviously now think I’m a NYC resident circa Spring 2003 — I’m now on Friendster. I did it as a favor to a friend, but what the heck. I’m there. Feel free to look me up, add me as a friend, etc. I now want to beat my friend at his own game. heh heh

It’s really annoying to use it to find new friends, though. The web site is so NYC-centric that anytime I look for people within 10 miles of my location, all I get is pages and pages of people from The City. Lotsa Brooklyn people on there…

Eh, it’s mindless fun. It’s also an interesting take on the human condition to see how far people will go with these things. So, yeah, I’ll just chalk this up as an academic experiment. Riiiiight.

News on BNL’s new album

From the official Barenaked Ladies mailing list:

“The new album, Everything to Everyone, available on CD or as a Deluxe CD+DVD combo-pak, featuring video of an 11 song acoustic studio session, in studio tid-bits, and the album in 5.1 Surround Sound. Look for the release available Tues, Oct 14th at digital retailers (iTunes, MusicMatch, Rhapsody, etc.) and Tues, Oct 21st in stores everywhere.”

Interesting that the CD is available on-line by a full week first. Even more interesting, to me, is the Deluxe edition with what amounts to an acoustic concert video. I like the sound of that.

Big Brother 4 finale (SPOILERS – UPDATED)

What a sucky year for reality show winners. I can’t remember a single reality show this year where I was happy with the winner. The first SURVIVOR was gypped when Rob got voted out. Dat Phan winning LAST COMIC STANDING is a real Hall of Shame moment for reality TV. The unlikable and arrogant Chip and Reichen winning AMAZING RACE. And now we have Jun winning BIG BROTHER 4. Has no show gotten it right since Doctor Will in BB2?!?

The producers of the show pulled a SURVIVOR on us tonight, showing us all the contestants talking about all the reasons Alison should win, and then watching the live vote go the other way. Even SURVIVOR has backed off that trick now because it became so cliche and predictable. I have to think, in the end, that the votes were all placed with emotion, instead of logic and reason. Alison deserved to win for outplaying every last one of those people in the house. Jun won for skating by and keeping more quiet, in much the same disgusting way Lisa won BB3 last year.

I do think, however, that the tears Alison shed when she saw her parents were real. I also believe they may be the first real tears of emotion she’s shed all summer. And she’s in heap big trouble with the boyfriend when she gets back. Julie Chen saw it — the message was so ambiguous that it was obvious he just didn’t want to dump her on live national television. It won’t last.

What’s done is done, though. It was a great hour of television. The silence in the room was deafening when the winner was realized. You probably won’t see much of a reunion for this cast. Showing them the videotapes of the season and then bringing them back together to talk about it was a genius move. The big question now is how this will affect next year’s show. Will contestants be honest in the Diary Room anymore? It doesn’t seem to be a smart thing to do. Will this just remind them that people are watching and to always be careful about what you say? Don’t be honest and emotional, but calm, cool, and collected at all times? Is that a bad thing?

One thing’s for sure — the producers need to bring in more likable contestants next year. This year’s batch had a very small number of universally liked contestants. Jack, for sure. Dave, possibly. That’s about it. You can make an argument for Robert, I suppose, but enough people didn’t like him… When there’s no rooting interest at the end, the show loses some pop at the end.

Updated: Have I mentioned yet how glad I am that Dana didn’t come close to winning? OK, good. In the meantime, read this interesting synopsis of the week in the house. It would seem that a number of people on the ‘net get easily ticked when people vent their frustrations and resort to name-calling instead of good Puritanical behavior… There’s also talk of game-rigging by the producers and plenty of other stuff.

Spelling insanity

Don’t get me wrong — I believe in spelling things correctly. I may have the occasional typo of misspelling in this blog, but that’s more a result of laziness than ignorance.

Still, this is borderline insane. Korea wants their name changed to “Corea” so that they appear before Japan in the dictionary, basically.

In other news, the state of Wyoming is accepting a buyout offer from the American Automobile Association so that they can change their state name to AAA/Wyoming and be ahead of Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas…