Monday, March 31, 2008

Lawrence of Arabia - Review

Okay... I'm about 46 years late in getting this review out. Tough. I just finally watched it this past weekend. Blockbuster had a great sale on the special editions of a bunch of movies and I finally decided now was the time to tackle old Lawrence.

All I can say is that it totally lives up to all the accolades it has received over the years. Even though it was nearly four hours long, and featured lots of traveling across desolate stretches of desert, it never felt like it dragged. Even 46 years later, the cinematography is still stunning (watching the restored special edition doesn't hurt, I'm sure).

I didn't know a whole lot about T.E. Lawrence, so while everything that happened was a surprise to me, a deeper understanding of the history and the politics evaded me a little on this first viewing. I eagerly look forward to revisiting this film in the future.

This film garnered a lot of press for its cast, most notably introducing Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif to the world. I thought Omar Sharif in particular was outstanding and really projected star power whenever he was on the screen. I've always been familiar with him, but never really had that high of an opinion of him and always wondered how he became so highly regarded. But after seeing him here, I have no more questions.

Lawrence of Arabia is rightly considered a classic, and perhaps the greatest of the old school epics.

Nine and a half teeth out of ten.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Mist

"The Mist" is the movie that "Cloverfield" desperately wanted to be. Scary. Thought-provoking. Well-acted. Evoking a sense of wonder. Cool giant monsters (and small ones).

I picked up the two-disk special edition specifically to get the director's preferred version of the movie, in black and white. And I have to say, it gives it a totally different feel than the color version. If you get the chance, definitely go for the B&W.

Can't say too much more about the movie without giving the good stuff away. The premise is that a mysterious mist rolls into a small town trapping a bunch of people inside a supermarket. The rest of the movie is them trying to figure out what's out there (no surprise that it's some nasty creatures), and what they are going to do to survive if help doesn't arrive soon. It should also be no surprise that the worse monsters are among the people trapped inside as civilized behavior eventually starts to fall apart.

Acting is uniformly good, and for the first time, I actually thought Thomas Jane commanded a screen, playing a great everyman in this.

The ending has received lots of controversy (it's much different than the novella the film is based on), but I'm ambivalent about it. It works well enough for the film even if it crosses the line a WEE bit into "and now here's the clever movie ending."

I give this nine teeth out of ten.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Photoshop Express has landed

In my continuing quest to be able to exist entirely online, using only online versions of software programs, I present to you what may be the first salvo in what ultimately ends the online image editing battle.

Photoshop Express.

Adobe Photoshop has long been the king of image editing software, but it comes at a price. Being a video producer, it's one of the essential programs in my toolbox. But for doing simple tasks, like cropping or making black and white, it's sometimes overkill.

Photoshop Express joins the ranks of Fotoflexer and Picnik in this newly developing war for free online image editing. At this stage, I still have to give Fotoflexer the big edge in overall usability, but being as it's Photoshop, I anticipate its functionality to increase exponentially over the coming weeks and months. But even in its stripped-down form right now, it's still got some cool functions. I especially like how when you select an effect or image adjustment, it shows you all the variations all at once. Makes finding the exact look you want blazingly fast.

Alas, there's no layer support yet.

But as I said, I'm sure it's on its way.

And like the other online image editing sites, Photoshop Express makes it easy to import or access photos from many popular image hosting sites, and Facebook. Handy.

Overall, a great first step, and one to watch.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 - The Answer? Or just the next step?

HULU... it might not be THE competition to watching TV on actual TV, but it's close.

I'd signed up for the beta preview a couple of months back, but after looking at it for a few minutes, some other shiny thing commanded my attention and I forgot about it. It kinda came back on my radar with the well-publicized official public release (it must have been well-publicized because my non-techie wife came into my office asking if I'd heard about this new thing called Hulu). But a seemingly innocuous link to a video of Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert from 1996's Dana Carvey Show that made me a believer.

In watching that video clip, and then realizing that the ENTIRE season of episodes of this long-sought-after show (by me) was available in high quality, and for free, that showed me the depth and scale of this new service.

Arrested Development - The ENTIRE series available for free.
SNL - All the skits individually accessible (so you only have to watch the good ones)
Simpsons, Family Guy, Office, 30 Rock, and dozens of others are also offering a growing number of episodes (although no complete seasons yet, but I expect that to change).

There's DOZENS of shows, from almost all broadcast and cable networks (although I don't think ABC or CBS are on board yet, but I'm hearing rumors that that will change soon). Literally too many to list or count. I found a show I hadn't seen since I was five years old and watched a part of an episode (I'm nostalgic, but not THAT nostalgic to sit through a whole episode).

They have entire sporting events, like game 4 from the 1977 Stanley Cup Finals (that's hockey to you non-sports fans).

They even have dozens of movies available available for free, many of them relatively prominent titles. As you might surmise from the image at the top of this post, I chose to watch "Man on the Moon" with Jim Carrey. (for my review, click here).
(I'm going to embed the video of the entire film here, but I don't know if you have to registered for it to show up. Please let me know what your experience with this embedded video is)

The quality of the film was good with two options for commercials. One where you could watch a 2 minute movie trailer before the film and have no commercials during the film, or another option where you get normal commercial breaks throughout the film (but these are only single 15-second long breaks every fifteen minutes or so.)

After about 40 minutes, my office chair began to get less and less comfortable to watch a full length film in and my butt fell asleep a few times. While you CAN watch a full-length movie at your desk, you probably don't want to. But for TV show episodes? No problem. And if you're on the road and have your laptop and an internet connection, Hulu makes the perfect entertainment destination.

I know that if I miss an episode of my favorite TV shows that I'm not out of luck, or that I have to scramble to find it or hope that someone has uploaded it to bittorrent or youtube.

Hulu is a great step forward. Now we just need the nerds that are working on the box that allows internet videos to be played on our TVs to step up their game. Come on, nerds, let's GO.

Friday, March 07, 2008

"Split" is alive!

(hit the pause button on the slideshow and advance it frame by frame if it goes too fast to read)

After many many months of writing and proofing and editing and book formatting and cover designing and master copy uploading and ordering, the happy day finally arrived when we were all able to hold our little book in our hands.

"Split" is the anthology written by my writing group, Humble Fiction Cafe. The theme of this anthology is 'dichotomies', or something that has two opposing aspects. Examples include War and Peace; Real and Imagined; Love and Hate; Body, Soul and Spirit, and many more. Each story examines either one side of the dichotomy, or both sides within the same tale. A group of the stories also form a loose continuity, as one story inspired another which inspired another leading us to tie them together even closer and make them all fit together.

It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and we're all very proud of this book.

If you'd like to read this masterpiece yourself, please order your copy right here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

First Watchmen Character Photos - Wow

As of now, we're one year away from what is probably my most anticipated movie of the next several years- Watchmen.

Watchmen is the "Citizen Kane" of comic book/superhero/graphic novel literature. It's a masterpiece, and as such, any attempts at filming it will obviously be met with much hand-wringing and skepticism and trepidation by those that hold it in such high esteem. How can they possibly squeeze this densely-packed story into a two-, or even three-hour film? Is it possible?

The film, being directed by Zach Snyder, of "300" fame, just finished shooting a couple of weeks ago, and until tonight, we hadn't seen anything except for a few set photos. But tonight, we're granted our first images of how the characters have been translated to screen. And I have to say, I absolutely love what I see so far. I especially love just how DARK everything is. Take a look at Ozymandias and Nite Owl.

In an early interview, Snyder was talking about how the costumes as portrayed in the comic book wouldn't work on screen, and I agreed. He made a great point that the costumes from the comic (which was released in the mid-80's) was a visual commentary/deconstruction of how superhero costumes had been portrayed in comics up to that point. But he said that because this is a movie, superhero costumes on screen have created an entirely new visual vocabulary that film-goers have gotten used to after fifteen-plus years. Specifically, Batman, Spider-man and the X-men. Gone is the baggy Spandex and cotton underwear worn on the outside; prominent are the sleek leather and mesh fiber materials. The photos we were gifted with tonight perfectly shows that design sensibility brought to life.

Exactly one year from this moment (midnight), I'll be seeing the opening moments of this film playing out on screen (because I WILL be there for the midnight showing). I'm 90% more confident in this film than I was just twenty minutes ago. Should be a fun year until then as the fun stuff continues to be leaked out to us.