Archives for April 2009

Best Movie Cameos

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2009/apr/24/cameos-clip-joint

Hint:  Hitchcock is featured in one of the clips.

For the Love of Blu-Ray

blueray-disk1When high definition technology was introduced to home entertainment, I was a bit skeptical (remember BetaMax anyone?). It always seems that the one who is early in the lead is the one that ends up losing the war. Therefore, it was with the great HD (HD-DVD)/BD (Blu-Ray Disk) wars.

Let me also state that I am definitely not a not what one would call as a technophobe. If you were to look at the Diffusion of Innovation model, I would classify myself as lying between an early adopter and part of the early majority (see graphic). What prevents me from being a full on early adopter is cost and that is one of the factors I weighed when deciding to invest a new product/innovation. In other words, while my intellectually I may be an early adopter costs considerations make me part of that early majority.


diffusionofinnovation_2

Diffusion of Innovation Model

For me, part of this early adoption process meant that I did extensive reading/research about the options I had available.

As of last year, one problem solved was solved for me in that BD prevailed.

On to the next conundrum … what do I do with the hundreds of DVDs I have collected over the years? Do I slowly replace all of my DVDs to the new format? I quickly realized to replicate my collection was impractical if not impossible on many levels, especially when one considers the fact that when compared to standard DVDs, a fraction of those titles are available on BD.

This was another easy decision. I am evaluating my replacing based on the following criteria:

  1. Age of the film: the older the film the less likely the print will have a clean high-definition transfer to Blu-Ray. How much can the quality of A Room with a View improve anyway?
  2. High-def concerts are awesome: While I am primarily concerned with movies on this board, I must mention the high quality of music performances captured in high definition. Although the selection on Palladia is somewhat limited, when you watch concerts in Hi-Def, it reminds you why you upgraded to the platform in the first place.
  3. Special Effects-laden film definitely benefit from the HD treatment: before I made my BD decision, I purchased the standard DVD version of Iron Man a purchase I quasi-regret at this point. But the past is the past, which leads to my third rule:
  4. Why waste the money? (AKA, you can only look forward): The purchase has already been made. The DVD quality on a high-definition screen is still good and I do not see any reason to back catalog at least for now (and you can always up-convert the signal). All future purchases will take the above-mentioned “rules” into consideration.

In the end, determining what technological innovation you want to go with is always a personal decision. I hope that this article highlighted a point that you, the reader, may have overlooked or not even considered.

Read more to find out more about the history of high definition video formatting: the 2005 Engagdet.com article detailing the format wars and the 2008 CNET Quick Guide.

Here is the official Blu-Ray site: http://us.blu-raydisc.com/

Summertime is here! Bring on The Blockbuster (and not so big) Pictures!

summer-2009Yes ladies and gents, it is that time of year again.  A time when movie studios unload their crowd pleasing big-budgeted movies. I really look forward to this time of year, especially when there are more than three (3) films I am willing to pay for.  Last year was pretty good and this year looks like it will be the same.

While this is a time for the larger movies to see the light of there are also those smaller films (“counter-programming”) which I must remember not to overlook.
I already have my Wolverine (May 1) ticket purchased and at the ready. The moment Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 15) tickets go on sale, I am there, in spite of the nearly nine months I endured after Warner Brothers held off the initial release date. It is almost unforgivable.

So, after doing some additional research on IMDB’s Summer 2009 Movie Guide, here is my personal list of other must see films:

May
8th: Star Trek – I am not a Trekkie but I am really forward to this re-imagining. They had me at the teaser.
8th: Rudo y Cursi – I am going to try to catch this at the Tribeca Film Festival. Could be a riot.
22nd: Terminator Salvation – Bale tirade aside I almost forgot that this movie was coming out. The trailer looks very good.

So far, there is nothing premiering in June that captured my interest; does not matter anyway – I am seeing Eric Clapton in concert. That should get me through. BUT If I do get the urge to enter the cinema, I will likely catch up on Whatever Works and Easy Virtue.

July
1st: Public Enemies – given my love of crime dramas from eras long gone their handling of similar subjects and characters, I am looking forward to seeing how the story is brought forward into the 21st century.

That is it folks! It looks like it will be the Summer of Bale, if both his movies are big. Granted my must see list is not an end all be all for summer movie going experience. I am sure over the course of the summer I will dragged invited to go to the movies with friends and family. At the end of the day, going to the movies really is a social enterprise; well that and a great way to save on home energy costs (free AC)!

Happy Belated Birthday Bill Holden!

holden-as-sefton1

William Holden as Sefton in "Stalag 17" (1953)

April 17th (Friday) marked William Holden’s 91st birthday.  As someone who is admittedly a fan but also admitting to not seeing films such as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Network (1976) to their completion, here in no particular order are a list of what I feel are some notable Holden performances:

Picnic (1955) – the Cinemascope/Technicolor combination makes this film feel like a big sweeping epic.  Which is strange since is hails from a stage show, which  in general tend to be more confined. It just looks like a “big” picture. While I do not think that this is the best of Holden’s performances, I still enjoyed the picture.  A great part of my reservation stems from the fact that while Holden’s Hal Carter is a bit world-weary (much list the actor in real life) there is an immaturity in Hal that Holden does not seem to be able to capture.  It truly is a compliment to the fact that by this time in his life Holden himself appeared to be a man who “got it” and would not live under such delusions.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) – one of his finer performances.  As much as we are taken in by the bravura performance of Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, Holden performance is a perfect foil with its nonchalant indifference to the glare of Hollywood.  No wonder he received his first Oscar nomination!

Apartment for Peggy (1947) – this such a cute movie especially for slow afternoon.  Truly diverting and pleasure to watch.

Our Town (1940) – I watched this movie again the other night on late-night public television.  I think this film is especially noted for a fine turn from pre-WWII Holden.  When referencing his performance, the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther in his June 14, 1940 review stated, “William Holden plays the boy with a clean and refreshing youthfulness.”  Among the awards bestowed upon this film: “10 Best Films” – 1940 New York Times; “10 Best Films” – 1940 Film Daily; Best Acting – 1940 National Board of Review (Martha Scott and William Holden).  In addition it was nominated in the following categories:  1940 Oscars – Best Actress (Martha Scott); Best Black and White Art Direction (Lewis Rachmil); Best Score and Original Score (Aaron Copland); Best Picture; Best Sound (Thomas T. Moulton); 1940 National Board of Review for Best Picture.

Stalag 17 (1953) – my personal fave and by sheer coincidence Holden’s Award-winning performance as Sefton, a cynical, self-serving POW who ends up being our hero by film’s end.

For those who are interested in learning about the life of William Holden the actor and the man, I recommend Bob Thomas’ Golden Boy:  the Untold Story of William Holden is a very good biography.  It tells the story straight without too many salacious details.

2000 Maniacs

2000maniacs

I was intending to write about this movie and describing it as one of the worst films I have ever seen. Some time has passed since I first wrote the review I was hoping to transcribe today. However as a week has passed my feelings about this film have softened – especially when I did a little more digging into the origins and backstory of the film.

These facts stand out: the film was shot in 15 days; the movie is loosely based off of the musical Brigadoon; the extras included the townspeople; and the director is none other than Herschell Gordon Lewis, who in horror circles is a godfather (of sorts) of “splatter” films – a subgenre of horror.

I was not armed with this information however when I was doing my requisite flipping through the television listings for Turner Classic Movies and stumbled upon this description:

2000 Maniacs (1 star)(1964) The Southern mayor (Jeffrey Allen) and citizens of a Civil War ghost town greet tourists.

I was naturally intrigued by this description and decided to record it (it was on at an obscure time).

Yes the movie is bad but in an unconventional way. Normally with a movie that I find totally unbearable to sit through I will simply turn the channel, stop the DVD player – anything that will remove me from the train wreck I am witnessing on screen. To this film’s credit, I did not want to turn away from what I was witnessing. The plot synopsis tells the audience all we would ever want to know about where the movie is taking us. And trust me as you are watching movie you have a good sense of where everything is going and how it is we arrive there. But still I watched with fascination.

The acting was what one could expect from a standard issue B-movie. The cinematography, editing, etc. were also from the low budget school of filmmaking.

One thing I found extremely impressive was the actual quality of print. The movie easily looked like it could have been made in the 1970’s or 1980’s. In fact there are some films that have “more cultural/historical significance” that are not in as good of shape as this film.

While it may not go down in history as a cinematic masterwork, 2000 Maniacs goes to show that you do not have to be Citizen Kane to keep your audience engaged.

For more background information:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Maniacs