What I Thought About “Les Miserables”

  • I felt sorry for the focus puller. It looks like three quarters of the movie was shot at f/1.8. The focus puller had a LOT of work to do to keep up with moving actors in a scene.

  • “Gladiator 2” will not be a musical. I believe the Actor’s Union has even written a new rule to keep Russell Crowe from ever singing in a movie again.

  • France was a rotten place to live in the 19th century.

  • I kept hearing stories about women crying in the theaters during Anne Hathaway’s big musical moment in the first half hour. I got more emotional with the Daddy/Daughter moments, because I’m a softie dad.

  • Was the CGI that obvious, or is the Blu-Ray high definition just too clear? Either way, all of the CGI backgrounds jumped out pretty obviously.

  • I knew one song in advance of the movie. I surprised my wife when I sang along with “Bring Him Home.” Though at least now I get what the song is about better. I knew it from Dennis De Young’s “10 on Broadway” album. That album is not available digitally on Amazon, but is on iTunes. You can buy the CD off Amazon, too.

  • Hugh Jackman got robbed at the Oscars.

  • Obvious and Obligatory Geek Moment: Wasn’t it great to see a team-up between Catwoman and Wolverine, though?

  • I love how the proper French accent sounds so — British.

  • Yes, the camera angles were a little weird. Dutch angles, close-ups, medium range at best. And then, when the camera pulls back, there’s an odd amount of negative space in the top half of the screen, with all of the important stuff packed into the lower third or so. Strange. It does feel a little cramped. I guess when you’re filming with an f/1.8 lens, everything wants to have shallow depth of field.

  • No, really, there were shots where the actor’s nose and eyes were in focus, but their ears were staring to blur already. That’s a shallow depth of field. What did they think they were doing? Being all Stanely Kubrick with a 50mm and lighting scenes by candle light a la “Barry Lyndon”?

  • The Blu-ray looks and sounds great. We used the 5.1 surround sound since we don’t have the other two speakers for the 7.1 setting, but everything was clear and crisp, nonetheless.

Track 5

Only $2.99 at Amazon now. Track 5 is better known as “What’s Opera, Doc?” minus the speaking parts. For those, you’d need to buy this one:

Of if you want the DVD:

This public service message comes to you from — well, me. And the potential Amazon Affiliates points.

State of the DVD, c. 2002

When “Shrek” debuted on DVD in 2001, it came as a two-disc set. Here’s the first disc:

The original Shrek DVD

These days, when you see a two disc set, you assume the second disc is the special edition material. It’s all the behind the scenes stuff you likely won’t ever watch, but loved seeing as bullet points on the back of the DVD packaging. Or, even more recently, one disc is the Blu-ray edition and the other is the DVD.

But back at the turn of the millennium, two discs were for something else. One was the original aspect ratio (O.A.R.) edition for the movie, while the other was the nauseating pan and scan edition. Widescreen television sets were not yet the norm, and lots of people still thought an O.A.R. edition of a movie meant that information was being chopped off the top and bottom of the picture where the black bars were. The earliest days of the DVD format were as much an effort about getting new technology in people’s hands as it was an effort to explain to people that pan and scan sucks and so-called “widescreen” was the one true way to go.

Thankfully, we’re over that now. O.A.R. won. But when my daughter decides she wants to watch “Shrek” again, I need to remember better that I want her to watch Disc 2. Otherwise, I’ll go dizzy from the pan and scan.

Footnote 1: “Original Aspect Ratio” is not to be confused with “Of A Revolution”

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2011 New Year’s Resolution

Last year, I decided against doing any New Year’s Resolutions, since I failed most spectaularly on the ones I had set the year before.

This year, I’m feeling more adventurous, so I’ve set some photographic New Year’s Resolutions. Click on the link to visit the all-new AugieShoots.com for that post.

My first resolution for the new year: Keep AugieShoots.com running regularly. It might not be daily, but at least three times a week should be doable.

The second resolution: Get VariousAndSundry updated regularly again, even if it’s only once a week.

Three: Watch more Blu-ray movies. I’ve been very slow to buy them, mostly because I haven’t watched enough of the ones I DID buy. So let’s start correcting for that in 2011.

New Release Excitement

We live in exciting times.

Why, just yesterday, the following things see release:

We are truly cursed to live in interesting times, yet with never enough time to absorb and enjoy it all.

Why Disney Has It Backwards

This is wrong. The Blu-ray disc is not the subordinate bonus disc. That’s a ridiculous statement on Disney’s part. There are two SKUs for the “Snow White” home video release.

The first is a cheaper lesser DVD-only release. It has the movie, some bare bonus bits, and that’s it.

The Blu-ray SKU contains two Blu-Ray discs (the feature, and a disc of bonus materials) plus the original DVD disc as a bonus, mostly to be used in the car player for the kids in the back seat. That DVD disc isn’t what anyone is purchasing that box for. It’s a secondary feature to be added to the Blu-ray release.

Even worse, Disney advertises this as a “Disney DVD” release with the Blu-ray insignia hidden in the bottom right corner of the box. Disney is living in the past, and needs to deal with the fact that it’s publishing two formats, and should have a name that encompasses both. (Take, for example, the way Apple has “iOS” to cover all its mobile touch-screen devices, instead of an “iPhone OS.”)

Yes, there are still more DVD players out there than Blu-ray players. Most likely, that will always be true. That’s not the issue here. The issue is — well, purely semantic. But it’s a horrible way to market a Blu-ray disc. Those who want the Blu-ray are used to a certain packaging that Disney isn’t using. It’s not the slightly smaller box. It’s not the box with the blue bars at the top and bottom. It’s just — wrong.

Posted in DVD


The Blockbuster down the street from me is closing.  The sign outside the store says, “This Location Only!”   Funny; that’s the same thing the other three Blockbusters I’ve seen close in the area in the last six months or so have said.   At what point do they just admit that their business model is toast?  The video rental store made sense when it was VHS only and rental stores had exclusives for a long time.  (Well, you as the consumer could buy the movie right away if you REALLY wanted to pay $80 or more for it.)  But once that barrier disappeared — I think it did with DVDs, but don’t quote me on that — the rental store lost its major weapon.  And with cheap DVDs available quickly and DVRs able to record high def movies off cable to view anytime and now those $1 rental Red Boxes and all the on-line options — well, Blockbuster doesn’t need to exist. It’s convenient sometimes, but not often.  Why bother?   It’s somewhat sad to see another Real World community site disappear. Welcome to the future, though.    

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My First Amazon Purchase

Just discovered this weekend that Amazon has a complete history of everything you’ve ever purchased available for your perusal. Go to Your Account –> Your Orders and then choose the year from the dropdown box just above and to the left of your most recent orders.

Turns out my first Amazon purchase was September 7, 1998.  I bought two things:

I had gotten my DVD player a couple months earlier, so this would have been one of my earliest movie purchases.  Back then, DVDs weren’t a dime a dozen.  This one cost $20.99. Today, it’s available for $12.49. For goodness sake, the Blu Ray for this movie is less than $15.

What can I say, I’m part tech geek. This $42.95 book promised to discuss the format and the processing in detail. I was very curious about it at the time.  I remember carrying this book out of the office one day, when one of the Veeps at the company I worked for (he’s very smart) looked at the book and said, “I didn’t think they were all that mystifying.”

Total price: $68.84

That’s right: There was no free shipping on orders more than $25 back then, let alone Amazon Prime.

Star Trek (2009)

Last week, I talked about my initial Blu Ray thoughts from watching last year’s “Star Trek” movie. Now, let’s get to the movie, itself, in convenient blogger-friendly bullet point format:

  • I still get chills when they do the slow pan across the Enterprise for the first time in any given movie.

  • J.J. Abrams knows what the fans wants and throws in as many references as he can, from Kirk bedding green skinned alien women to the guy in the red shirt jumping to his death. Really, we all saw it coming and we all laughed when it happened. Oh, and Sulu is a swordsman! Excellent!

  • Chekov is a bit too much, though I did laugh at his inability to pronounce code words right. “Wictor Wictor.”

  • The guy playing McCoy sure gets DeForest Kelley’s cadence dead-on. I think it may be my favorite introduction to a character of all time, when Bones walks into the shuttle and sits next to Kirk.

  • Abrams didn’t change things as much as I thought he might. He amplified them. He created Spock to be just as much the rebel as Kirk. And those similarities help to amplify the fights between the two which, in the original series, felt almost jocular more often than not.

  • Uhura bedding Spock? Interesting. As I recall, the trailers were cut to make it look like she and Kirk were having a romp.

  • Pike eating a slug is Chekov getting the slug in his ear from “Wrath of Khan” right?

  • I’m a geek, I know.

  • Spock’s alternate reality speech is the nice way to consider this a franchise reboot, isn’t it?

  • My only problem with the movie? Kirk is handled as a cartoonish buffoon in two places: his blown-up hands, and running away from CGI Creature. Besides, My Captain Kirk (UGH) would have found a gigantic icicle and pierced the heart of that beast to save himself, not cower in fear and wait for a deus ex machina.

  • The movie really was like a Greatest Hits Star Trek film. They’ll need to expand beyond that for the next movie, though I have no doubt they will do so admirably.

  • Scotty has a cute alien creature buddy. Why? Is there a reason beyond the merchandising? Or was it because another human would have cost more money to pay an actor with lines for? I smell deleted scene. I need to get to that second disc filled with extras . . .

  • “I got your gun.” BWAH HA HA

  • Damn, he even sits in the captain’s chair like William Shatner.

  • Bruce Greenwood will forever be The Nowhere Man to me, but he does well as Pike, too.

  • In the end, the movie wears “Star Trek” like a badge on its sleeve, not something to be avoided or ashamed of. It revels in the fact, throws in as many in-jokes and well-remembered punch lines as possible, and then lets everyone know that the old Trek you knew and loved is still valid, but this is the new and modern revamped parallel version (minus a Romulan and Vulcan home world) that you may now enjoy.

Highly recommended.

Posted in DVD

New Blu Rays for 26 Jan 2009

These Blu Ray write-ups always seem to feature one prominently dead guy, don’t they? I’m cursed.

Bruce Willis movie, based on the Top Shelf comic book.  Did you ever think you would read such a sentence?

Chick flics?  Check and check.

The Blu Ray is an “extended dance edition.”  Oooh…

Do they ship one of these sequels every week now?

Drew Barrymore directs, “Juno” stars.

It’s Criterion, so I’m supposed to love it, right?  I have the Criterion DVD release of “House of Games.” Really need to get to that someday.  Haven’t watched it in years, and then it was in the standard release.

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Initial Blu Ray Thoughts

This is something I wrote up three weeks ago, and never posted. Whoops. I’ve since watched a couple more Blu Ray movies and am still in awe of the detail and experience. Let’s get to the writeup:

I finally got to fire up the Blu Ray player on Monday and Tuesday nights to watch a movie, after a long weekend of near-misses. So I watched “Star Trek,” and loved every minute of it. Every line of dialogue. Every bit of questionable physics.

So, time for some bullet points, and I’ll start with the Blu Ray side of things:

  • Oooh, so pretty. Even the Paramount logo is sharp and shiny.

  • The Blu Ray player really is just a computer that happens to play video. It feels so much like that now. Yes, it loads a little more deliberately than a DVD player, but given how many DVD menu authors like to go overboard with “designed” things that take time to play after you choose any menu item, it’s not that big a stretch.

On the Samsung unit I have, the default menu gives you four additional options to start, including Pandora, YouTube, and Netflix, or Blu Ray. I really need to get internet connectivity working with this player next. I want to watch that whole 90 minute takedown of “The Phantom Menace” on my big screen TV. ;-) (I’ve since watched all the parts of that series, by the way, and it’s hilarious. Well worth the time.)

  • Blu Rays still do the annoying “Show Four Trailers Before Accessing the Menu” crap. It looks like the “Title Menu” button will skip past them. Doing chapter skip is too slow for me.

  • I like the way the text on the screen seems in proportion to the screen size. Things aren’t REALLY HUGE because they don’t need to be. They’re likely the same size, pixel-wise, as DVDs, but can look smaller and more proportionate just because there’s more pixels up on the screen.

  • Surround sound rules.

  • I know the home theater experts say to use the cinema video mode and then calibrate from there, but I still find that to be too dull. I use “standard.” “Vivid” is only for those who are half-blind, I guess. Or for Best Buy’s use up on the wall.

  • Heh heh. While the disc menu is loading, you get a little Enterprise spinning around.

  • Wait, there’s no movie trailer on this disc? I hope it’s on the second disc. I like having movie trailers. (It is on the second disc, with all the extras.)

Posted in DVD

New Blu Rays for 19 January 2010

Lesson learned: If you want to off yourself (a regular motif of these Blu Ray posts, it seems), use something quicker and easier than a kitchen knife. Yikes.

  • The Bourne Identity (Universal) The Bourne Supremacy (Universal) The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal)

These are the new flipper discs, where one side is Blu Ray and the other is DVD. I suppose that’s a good gateway drug kind of thing, but it seems ultimately silly to me. Maybe the idea of a single SKU is glorious to the movie companies. I don’t know.

The big problem, of course, is that you’ll need to look at the tiny type on the ring around the hole in the middle of the disc to tell whether you’re about to put in a Blu Ray or a DVD disc.

So just buy the trilogy on Blu Ray and be done with it.

  • Che (Criterion)

For you communist revolutionary dictator worshipping types…

Gerard Butler in what looks like a bit of a “Ender’s Game” type of movie.

The story of the first politician, right? Stars Ricky Gervaise.

Yes, this is the comic book-based movie that bombed so big in September that I don’t think it saw October in a movie theater. The original comics are really really good, though.

I like this movie. I’ve never watched the DVD more than once, but I like it. Big sprawling cast, crazy ending, and a magnificent Oscar-nominated supporting actor turn for Tom Cruise that’s completely NSFW at the beginning there.

There’s always a TV-on-DVD release, right? I guess this is TV-on-BD now?

Posted in DVD

New Blu Rays for 13 January 2010

It’s a Criterion movie, so there’s an audience for it.

Sylvester Stallone hangs off a mountainside. Everyone roots for the mountain.

Despite co-starring someone from “So You Think You Can Dance,” it didn’t do too well. I believe Ebert was tracking some stories about unfortunate cuts being made to bring the film in under a certain time limit that completely destroyed the plot and characters, though. No reported “Director’s Cut” here, though.

An Oscar favorite for Best Picture, Best Director, and probably more. It’s currently also the #1 best selling DVD/Blu Ray on Amazon.

Really? They bothered to put this on Blu Ray? The new gold rush must be on. The movie tanked so bad when it was released that Topps famously canceled the comic book adaptation of it, after all the work was already done!

2009 smaller budget science fiction movie. Got some good reviews that I saw.

Remember when they announced this series coming to DVD at a rate of two a year and people complained that it would take forever to catch up to the series? Is this being released out of order? It hasn’t really been 10 years of Simpsons releases, has it?

On the bright side, there’s nothing I’m tempted to buy this week. I can go back to not watching the five Blu Ray discs I do already own.

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Blu Ray Releases for 29 Dec 2009

Now that I have a Blu Ray player, let’s see about reviving the New Release List here.  For starters, it’s a much shorter list to deal with each week:

This is that stop motion movie from the summer produced by Tim Burton.  Got good reviews, looked good, but I haven’t seen it.

This is a movie made for the sake of letting Megan Fox prance around in skimpy clothing for two hours.  In other words, it ought to be an EXCELLENT Blu Ray.  There might be a story, too, but I don’t think any of the teenage guys who saw it in the theaters cared.

Milla Jovovich.  So once you’re done demoing your system with “The Fifth Element,” go see her serious acting chops in this movie.  This is another horror/thriller movie, set in Hawaii, i.e. the state “Lost” put on the map. (Yes, that is a joke.)

That’s about as generic a movie title as you can get, isn’t it?  It’s supposed to be “The Blair Witch Project” for a new generation.  If “Cloverfield” didn’t make you nauseous, go for this film!

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