Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

This year, Hannah was an Indian Mommy for Halloween. Not Pocahontas, not an Indian Princess -- an Indian Mommy.


! !

Why is it that every time I open individually wrapped Starburst candies -- you know, the ones with two candies per package, the kind you get for, say, Halloween -- why is it that every time I open one of these, both candies are freaking LEMON!

Lemon candies should be wiped from the face of the earth!!

I'm done now -- go about your business.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Off To The Races - Double-Double Feature

Films Recently Watched:

Double-Double Feature (Part I):

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965) dir. by Ken Annakin
Up until this one, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the longest-titled film that I had watched. Well, according to this list, even this one is only the 15th longest film title (Strangelove is 124th), so I guess I've got a long way to go (so to speak).
The list also shows Disney's upcoming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe weighing in at #164. What's #1, you ask? Another Demonstration of the Cliff-Guibert Fire Horse Reel, Showing a Young Girl Coming from an Office, Detaching Hose, Running with It 60 Feet, and Playing a Stream, All Inside of 30 Seconds, of course.

The Great Race (1965) dir. by Blake Edwards

When Volcano and Dante's Peak came out in 1997 and then Armageddon and Deep Impact came out in 1998, I was convinced that either the film studios were blatantly ripping each other off or they had completely lost the ability to generate an original story idea and more than likely, both. But once again, I learn there's nothing new under the sun. Hollywood couldn't come up with two original ideas in 1965 either, so they apparently decided to make the same film twice! Those Magnificent Men and The Great Race are both films about a race to Paris. Both feature an American hero/lead with the antagonist being a dastardly/sabotaging over-acted fiend with a idiot sidekick who does much of their dirty work. Both have enormous male casts with nearly singular female roles, despite Race's theme of Women's Lib. Both clock in at well over 2 hours (137 and 160 minutes, respectively), including musical intermission breaks. Both use a "scope" aspect ratio. Both use an old-timey introduction/opening credits and both use a healthy amount of vehicle operation "acting" in front of rear-projection screens. Finally, both feature the female leads repeatedly losing their clothing. Other than that, they couldn't be more different!

Double-Double Feature (Part II):

Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) dir. by Michael Anderson. Produced by Michael Todd.
This was the Academy's Best Picture winner for 1956. It's IMDB rating is only 6.8. I began to wonder if '56 was a slow year at the movies, but the other four pictures nominated (and their respective IMDB rating) were: Friendly Persuasion(7.5), Giant(7.5), The King and I(7.5), and The Ten Commandments(7.7). No one has ever said that the Academy is free from politics, and my guess is that the Academy chose to honor Michael Todd for his accomplishment of making this monster of a film instead of honoring the actual "Best Picture." See, Michael Todd is considered by some to be the greatest film producer ever. He produced one film and with it, won the Producers' most coveted award, the Oscar for Best Picture. In many ways, the film tells the story of how the film was made. Both Michael Todd and Phileas Fogg, the main character in the story, are convinced that they can accomplish something that their closest friends believe is impossible. For Phileas Fogg, the task is to travel around the world in 80 days. For Michael Todd, it was to create a successful film adaptation of Jules Verne's famous story. Both had to overcome huge obstacles and constantly improvise in order to accomplish what they set out to do. Another accomplishment of Todd's in this picture was the invention of the "cameo;" the bit part played by a major star (e.g. Buster Keaton, Caesar Romero, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, and Red Skelton, to name a few from this one).

Around the World in 80 Days (2004) dir. by Frank Coraci
Disclaimer: I have not read Jules Verne's novel, Around the World in Eighty Days.
That said, if the 1956 version of this film is true to the source material, then this remake is barely recognizable as coming from the same source. Perhaps they should have changed the names to protect the innocent, because the names are about the only things that are the same here. This is pretty much Around the World in Eighty Days meets Inspector Gadget (not a compliment) meets every silly Jackie Chan movie you've ever seen. For me, the remake removes the heart and soul of the 1956 version. The come-what-may stoicism of Phileas Fogg and his true-to-self attitude in the face of adversity, to me were the heart of the story. These are replaced by hijinx and sulking in the remake. Also, the traveling sequences were among my favorites in the '56 movie. In 2004, these are replaced by 10 second CG bits so that they can move on quickly to the next big choreographed fight sequence. If you're only going to watch one, watch the original from 1956.

Other Films Recently Watched:

High Plains Drifter (1973) dir. by Clint Eastwood

Deliverance (1972) dir. by John Boorman

I [Heart] Huckabees (2004) dir. by David O. Russell

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) dir. by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
A simple, sweet story, despite the surface themes of zombies, murder and suicide. I can't help but compare this to Tim Burton's other feature-length claymation work, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Bride's songs are weaker and not as well-used. The story is much simpler, but not as well executed. The characters are fewer, but not as sympathetic. Nightmare is simply better.

I've finally, just recently broken into my birthday present that I got in March even though my birthday wasn't until May. It was a collection of 18 Oscar winners for Best Picture. From it, I've watched five of the DVD's so far: Unforgiven and Around the World in Eighty Days (already mentioned) and the following three titles:

GiGi (1958) dir. by Vincinte Minnelli
Christy enjoyed this one quite a bit.

An American in Paris (1951) dir. by Vincinte Minnelli

Grand Hotel (1932) dir. by Edmund Goulding

The Transporter (2002) dir. by Corey Yuen. Co-produced and Co-written by Luc Besson.
When we were at a movie theater in Indianapolis a couple of months ago, I saw a banner advertising The Transporter 2 with the reference, "From the makers of The Professional." Well, The Professional (aka: Léon) is one of my new favorites, so I figured I'd better watch the original before I considered seeing the sequel. I liked the visual style of the film (the bullet tracers are a really nice effect). It's a simple story that gets complicated, in this case, a little too complicated for its own good, I'm afraid. Similar to other Besson stories: Loner hero doesn't want to get involved, but meets a girl and, of course, gets involved anyway -- saves the day, gets the girl, etc. Completely implausible, but a fun action flick, nonetheless.

Friday, October 14, 2005


This thread over at the Home Theater Forum is discussing an interesting phenomenon regarding some very early DVDs from Universal and Warner Bros. They simply stop working. It probably has something to do with the glue used to seal the data between the layers of plastic that make up the disc. It seems the most common titles this is affecting are Psycho, Vertigo, Apollo 13, Contact, and Ghostbusters. Now, some of these titles have fairly new editions (all except Contact), but it is only the older versions of these DVDs that are affected. Whether or not other DVDs will begin to fail 8-10 years after they are manufactured is something we'll have to wait and see about.

But what was funny (hilarious -- to me, at least) is this exchange between two members as follows:

But first, a few things you need to know:

1.) Alfred Hitchcock made the original Psycho in 1960. Gus Van Sant made a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's classic in 1998. Both are available on DVD.

2.) Alfred Hitchcock made Vertigo in 1958. To my knowledge, no one has ever made a remake.

3.) Psycho is spelled P-S-Y-C-H-O.

Alright? -- here we go:

Martin: Also, are we talking about the original classic "VERTIGO" or the Gus Van Sant remake?


Martin: Ooooops. Sorry "PSHYCO"


Martin: Sorry. "PYSHCO"

Ah, emoticons. Some love them -- others hate them, but when used correctly, they can make me laugh out loud.

Click here to see the actual discussion. The above exchange happens on page 2.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

And the winner is.....

...Sony's Blu-ray next generation DVD format? Quite possibly.

I reported earlier here that the two developers of what would likely become the next generation home video format, Sony/Blu-ray and Toshiba/HD-DVD, were in talks about unifying the format for the benefit of everyone involved. Well, if you're paying attention at all, you already know that mega-sized companies have mega-sized egos and that my post about it was appropriately named, "I'll believe it when I see it." Needless to say...

Anyway, it appears that this will be left to work itself out in the marketplace. The funny thing is, it appears that the race may be over before it even began.

Several film studios that had, at one point, sworn allegience solely to HD-DVD have now backed both HD-DVD and Blu-ray. That puts just about every major film studio lining up with Blu-ray, but leaves HD-DVD some big holes in their line-up; namely Fox, MGM and Disney.

Add to that the fact that the Sony PlayStation 3 is likely to come out well before XBox 360 (which may or may not have any ability to play a next-generation DVD format at all) and that tilts the scales in favor of Sony's Blu-ray format.

After the BetaMax vs. VHS fiasco, it looks as though Sony may finally win a format war. Ever the cynic though, I'm still hedging my bets.

More reading about the subject:
Home Media Retailing
Several at Business Week

Films Recently Watched:

Spanglish (2004) dir. by James L. Brooks
I was surprised by this. Better than expected. Spanglish tells the story of a mother and daughter who immigrate from Mexico to the United States. The mother gets a job as a maid to the Clasky's, a rich white family in California. Worlds collide, but it's a sweet story. Fine performances, especially by newcomer, Sarah Steele in the role of the Clasky's daughter, Bernice. Adam Sandler restrains himself in his role and is believable as the sympathetic father. Surprisingly, it's Téa Leoni, if anybody, who goes a little over the top as the insecure, narcissistic mother.

Unforgiven (1992) dir. by Clint Eastwood

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Better Late Than Never

We had a few busy weekends back around and before Labor Day, but I hadn't gotten around to getting anything up here so let me, there is too much. Let me sum up:

Me Goofy!We got together with some college friends. This time the occasion was a friend who is a missionary in New Zealand who got married in January. Randy and Jen Cox hosted the shindig. It was great to catch up with Chad and to meet his bride, Diane. Once we got all the kids to sleep, we got to chatting and time got away from us. Well, suffice it to say that Randy always cracks me up, but at nearly 1:00 in the morning, he is especially hilarious to me. I got a little goofy. Anyway, thanks to Randy and Jen for hosting and to Chad & Diane for making the time to spend with us.
Randy & JenChad & Diane
The next weekend, after stopping at the hospital Friday night to see our friends' newest addition to their family, we were off to my sister's in Illinois. We had a good weekend with their family. We took our old rollerblades, which have only been collecting dust since Christy took a spill on our second outing with them several years ago. One of our nephews had expressed an interest in rollerblades and it just so happened that his feet are just about exactly the same size as Christy's! He picked it up really quickly and we were happy that the skates will get some use instead of sitting in our garage. Here are the photo highlights from our trip to my Sister's.

Finally, over the Labor Day weekend, we made our way North to Christy's parents in Michigan. We left right after work on Wednesday and got in at 11:30pm our time, 12:30am their time. We were lucky to get to see Christy's Aunt Linda when we got in, but didn't have a chance to visit much as she left early in the morning before we were up and around. Thursday, we went to a playground near Lake Cadillac. Grandpa and Hannah ended up wading in the lake a little bit. Friday, we went to a nearby petting zoo, Johnny's Wild Game and Fish Park. There were vending machines that dispensed corn to feed the roaming animals. I swear, the animals knew how they worked better than we did. If we got anywhere near one, we were surrounded by sheep and goats. Some would even maneuver to get their mouths aligned with the dispenser so as to catch it directly in their mouth instead of having to eat it from human hands or off the ground. I think if we'd left them a stack of quarters, they probably could have figured out how to work those machines! Later Friday, Christy's brother Paul (who now has a blog of his own thanks, in part, to your friendly neighborhood blog evangelist) got some time off of work and we went to a beach in Manistee near the Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse and did some swimming in Lake Michigan which, on that particular day, had some waves bigger than some than I've seen in the oceans. Later, we went to a family favorite, The House of Flavors, which, so I'm told, does, in actual act, serve food besides Ice Cream. Saturday, we headed north and went to the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, and briefly went swimming nearby before going to Traverse City for dinner. Sunday, we went to Church with Christy's parents and then back to Manistee, this time to a different beach, but back to The House of Flavors, of course.

Here are the photo highlights from our trip to Michigan (as you can see, I also learned how to use my panorama photo stitch mode on my camera/software):

Films Recently Watched:

Deathtrap (1982) dir. by Sidney Lumet

The Color Purple (1985) dir. by Steven Spielberg

Rope (1948) dir. by Alfred Hitchcock

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) dir. by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) dir. by Quentin Tarantino

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) dir. by Steven Spielberg

Dirty Harry (1971) dir. by Don Siegel

Good Will Hunting (1997) dir. by Gus Van Sant

Rebecca (1940) dir. by Alfred Hitchcock

Cinderella (1950) dir. by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske. Produced by Walt Disney.