Posts Tagged ‘video

11
Dec
16

#35. Hero (2002)

heromovieposter

Starring Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung

Directed by Zhang Yimou

The Short, Short Version:

Set in the time before the Great Wall of China, Jet Li is the Nameless Man who’s not too different than Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name.” China is divided into seven warring factions and Nameless approaches the Emperor Qin claiming his victories over master fighters Broken Sword, Sky, and Flying Snow. Upon speaking with Qin he relays the stories of how he beat all three. What we’re then treated to is three stories about how it all went down. The real reason behind the assassinations and Qin’s fate unravel as the tales unfold.

Why This Made the 40:

I had never watched it before this week. I remember someone saying that I would like it, giving it to me, and I can’t remember who. Did I like it? Sure. I think I didn’t watch it when it came out due to thee fact that I’m just not a big person on fantasy stories; kinda pick-and-choose. I did go to a theatre and watch, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and wasn’t really all that impressed. It looked nice but too much “wire-fu” and the story wasn’t all that great. Again, my opinion.

This time around being removed from the early aughts wire-fu movement I can say that I enjoyed the film. It pays homage to a few other films you may know. I mentioned earlier that Li’s character reminded me of the old Sergio Leone Clint Eastwood character. Aside from that there are a few references back to Kurasowa’s, “Rashomon,” in story structure and the fight with Broken Sword. At one point in the film (minor spoiler) a calligraphy teacher’s in a building being hit by multitudes of arrows. He commands his students to stay in their places as he is. Sitting cross-legged on the floor arrows fly around him much like the retired Emperor in, “Ran.” I’m sure there are several more references in this film.

Again, I’m not a huge fan of Asian cinema but every now and then there’s one I like. For it’s breathtaking scenery and mis en scene, “Hero,” is an incredibly beautiful movie. I actually went looking for it on Blu-ray as I only have the DVD version which is constantly grainy/pixelated. The one advantage to having the DVD version is that the original Mandarin Chinese 5.1 DTS sound mix is incredible while the video is, unfortunately, lackluster. Meanwhile the word is that the Blu-ray looks incredible while unfortunately the DTS 5.1 mix is the English dubbed version. Apparently, it’s one or the other…

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04
Dec
16

#39 Cleopatra

#39. Cleopatra (1934)

cleopatra-1934-poster-2

Starring Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon, and Ian Keith.

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille

The Short, Short Version:

This historical romance has Queen Cleopatra (Colbert) kidnapped and left in the middle of the desert along with her assistant. While Caesar (William) sits plots out his capture of Egypt Cleopatra manages to outwit her captor and cozy up to Caesar. This relationship proves fatal as 1) Caesar is already married to Culpernia and 2) No one in Rome likes Cleopatra. Failing to heed the Ides of March Caesar is assassinated and Cleopatra takes the only vehicle she has back to Egypt. Marc Antony (Wilcoxon), pissed off at Cleopatra as well, takes his legions into Egypt dead set on killing Cleopatra. Cleopatra placates to Antony and he, in turn, falls in love with her. Octavius (Keith) uses this relationship to turn Rome against Antony.

Why This Made the 40:

The second of the categories this came from the “Haven’t Watched” one. Believe it or not I have a few movies I found interesting by the packaging or historical context and as such, collected them; this was one.

This movie is about as compact as a black and white epic can get. 100 minutes may sound short however DeMille wastes no time in movie. Each scene “ramps up” to the next scene and gets bigger and better as it goes along. Claudia Colbert seethes sex and allure as Cleopatra and she knows how to play her cards and really, this movie is a showcase for her. William and Wilcoxon do fine jobs with their characters as much as they were written but again, this movie wasn’t about Caesar or Marc Antony so much as Cleopatra. As a female protagonist movie it navigates the sensibilities of the time fairly well.

Secondly, it’s a DeMille movie. From 1914 to 1956 he directed 80 films, most notably, “The Ten Commandments.” His sense for epic grandeur is in no short supply here – from the rooms of Egypt to Cleopatra’s trireme it’s about space and glory and opulence. The musical number on Cleopatra’s ship is the greatest example of it with the camera slowly pulling-back to show Marc Antony at the head of the ship as if on a stage while on the floor below are dancers and hoops on fire and even further back synchronous rowing and at the back one guy pounding on a giant drum. All in one shot. THAT is directing.

Like “Key Largo,” the coup-de-grace scene is expertly edited; tight and never short of action. Once Egypt and Antony take on Rome there’s a sequence that shows triremes ramming into each other, soldiers falling into the water (complete with underwater shots), Roman legions versus Egyptian legions, sword-fighting – everything one could ask for in a spectacular fight scene. You can also notice small bits of actors in front of a backlit projected image but those are interspersed with the other action shots so as not to interfere with the “suspension of disbelief,” which in my opinion was an incredibly smart move.

Did I enjoy it? Yeah. Equal mix history, romance, and action movie on an epic scale in 100 minutes is a feat for its time and altogether a decent movie. Sure, there are a few hokey instances such as Caesar playing with a device that’s supposed to thrust spears into the enemy (made from a cash register) and a giant door with a metal locking mechanism, but really these are just “of the time” issues; they happen every generation. Give it a spin if you get a chance.

21
Nov
08

Will Digital Kill the Video Disc?

As I walk into my garage where I can pop the 8-track into my quadraphonic stereo and mellow out to the Mamas and Papas, I say to myself, “I love the digital age.”

 

No, wait.

 

Skip forward to the cassette and then to the CD to the MP3 player, or maybe from the VHS to the DVD to the digital download. Thanks to leaps in technology, and in no small part to the Internet, we can now download movies or watch them streaming from a site online. While the music counterpart was quick to ban against MP3 technology, and then eventually let it in, the Hollywood system has been cautious, nay leery, of digital technology.

 

Why this is no one can say for sure. Part of it could be the fight between the RIAA and peer-to-peer sites over copyright infringement, which has led to the creation of bit torrent sites for downloading. Part of it could be that downloading hurts any current contracts with DVD distribution companies. And part of it could be mankind’s caution with technology. No one of these reasons is greater than the others.

 

With the proliferation of the peer-to-peer and bit torrent sites, Hollywood was more than compelled to begin offering movies for downloading. Sites such as CinemaNow, Movielink, and Vongo have sprung up offering users up to 4,000 video/movie titles as well as hundreds of TV show episodes. iTunes has also joined the market, extending their interests from just music to TV, movies, and music videos.

 

Back to the question: will digital downloading kill DVD/Blu-ray discs?

 

“Yes” because:

         Society has become “instant gratification,” and with faster Internet ability and movies being able to be compressed to the size of 1gb, they will become easier to download. And when someone’s finished with the movie and no longer wants to keep it on their harddrive, they can just delete it.

         Downloading will kill the “need” for packaging. Like the example above, there will be no need to deal with scratched discs or misplaced ones, or creating shelf space to house your collection when you can keep it on a computer.

         Downloading will put the current video retailers (Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video) out of business by offering “what’s new” to users online instead of making users wait in line at a checkout or brave “weather elements” as they stand outside a video cube.

 

“No” because:

         Currently, we do not have the electronic infrastructure for it. This means that if EVERY person in the U.S. logged on to download a movie, the Internet would HALT. While this is a worst-case scenario, it brings out the point that in order to offer more movies to more people, networks have to be changed/ rearranged, and we’re not currently seeing that happening.

         It would be nearly impossible (at least from the current standpoint) to offer the more than 21,000 films that have been made online. Each week several movies are available on disc, with only a fraction available online. We would first have to offer everything current before tackling the insurmountable-looking back catalog.

         Believe it or not, some people want the ability to hold a video in their hands, packaging and all. They don’t care about shelf space or depreciating value; it’s the ability to look for it (like a book) and pop it into the DVD player when they want, instead of having to navigate through a computer that they don’t like having.

         There is no clear platform for downloaded movies. Some of the services use a browser, while others use the application created by the company.

         Digital rights management. The above mentioned download sites have their “special” ways of displaying the movie you downloaded. Eventually, movie downloading and watching will have to go cross-platform, which means the above companies will have to agree on one format to use in order to show the films. That will also make the movies “easier” to pirate and transport.

         With all the viruses running around, as well as “inclement weather,” what happens when your computer DIES? The motherboard fries, the harddrive locks up, etc. If your collection isn’t burned onto disc, you’re in trouble…

 

In closing, my belief is that digital downloading, while it is an interesting addition to movie watching, has a ways to go before it will get to the point it needs to be. That and with the fact that computers aren’t 100% reliable, I do not believe that video discs are leaving all that soon.

 

For more info on movie site downloading, check out the following link:

http://www.bigpicturebigsound.com/movie-download-websites-903.shtml

20
May
08

New to the Endangered Species List: The Video Rental Store Guy

There is a species among man that has now found itself among the endangered; souls who find themselves with the likes of the Arakan Forest Turtle and the Javan Rhino. Where once they could be found nearly anywhere in captivity they’re reserves are now scattered, their laborious domiciles eyesores verging on dilapidation. This species goes by the description “Video repono pensio alio;” the Video Rental Store Guy.

 

This species was first discovered in the late 1970’s, when electronics began to arrive in the family home. At the time the species was divided between two groups: the Beta tapes, and the Videocassettes. As the pornographic industry gave Videocassettes their approval, Beta tapes found themselves being phased-out and their “rental assistants” found themselves cohabitating with the VHS to continue their survival. The advent of the Laserdisc showed no change to the cause of the Video Rental Store Guy, nor any significant change to the Video Rental Store Retailer.

 

The Retailers came, went, changed, and merged; whether it was Roadrunner, West Coast Video, Red Giraffe, Blockbuster, Family Circus, or any number of franchise or local-based stores, the Video Rental Store Guy adapted to the changes and environments. As a nation went forth into the Nineteen-Nineties, the VRSG looked forward to a bright and shining future; he was standing on the peak of Home Video Entertainment.

 

Little did he know that two things would change the face of home entertainment forever.

 

In the mid-Nineties the computing world introduced its inter-network, called the World Wide Web, to the culture en masse. While a few made note and slowly it gained acceptance, the VSRG only saw it as computers connecting to other computers; there wasn’t any harm to be seen. People were still renting VCR’s to watch their movies, and on occasion someone WOULD buy a popcorn, soda, and candy combo.

 

Around the same time came the release of the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). DVD’s were lighter, cheaper, and held more information than a standard VHS tape. They also came with the functionality of the Laserdisc but again, they were smaller. The changeover from VHS to DVD was slow as human culture was not sure about embracing this new technology. In fact it wasn’t until the motion picture, “The Matrix,” that DVD gained acceptance into home entertainment.

 

Unbeknownst to the VSRG, DVD and the WWW (or Internet) would soon be married in the form of online renting through several services, the least of which is called Netflix. Netflix operated by offering a catalog of movies difficult to find in some areas and stores, and the ability for the renters to receive rentals through mail. Retailers were quick to counter the movement, offering packages whereby renters could pay a monthly sum to rent movies through the mail and return them to a store, where they would have in-store credit and be able to choose among that retailer’s selection.

 

The Internet led to more developments: computers having DVD burners and peer-to-peer software that allowed for individuals to copy movies and distribute them to friends. Netflix allowed for “recommendations” based on a person’s movie “queue.” The biggest change was that now the common person didn’t have to drive to a store to get a movie or drop on off, they no longer had to deal with late fees, and they didn’t have to spend the extra money for a combo.

 

Now the VSRG finds himself having to hock combos just to stay in the business. The people are staying at home; no one needs his suggestions. The Retailers are closing their stores and/or merging them, and the Video Store Rental Guy is doing everything he can to keep his job. As he stands looking across a vast landscape that was once rife with videotapes, he sheds a tear.

15
May
08

A Mighty Second Wind: 5 Favorite Comeback Movies

You’re sitting in a theatre, or maybe at home, and see a preview for a movie that you’re not sure about. It could be good, it could be funny, it could be great, but you just don’t know. Few if any of your friends go see it. Then it comes out on video.

 

And it becomes a huge hit.

 

In honor of these occasions, I give to you my Top 5 Favorite Second Wind / Comeback Movies.

 

 “Airplane!” (1980) – The big-budget debut of the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker writing/directing trifecta. When the spoof of movies such as “Zero Hour!” and “Airport,” with a few classics thrown in, hit the theatres it was a certified box office dud. Once it hit video, it became the #1 rental of the 1980’s. I’m not joking, and don’t call me Shirley.

 

 

 

“Austin Powers” (1997) – The world was almost James Bond-ed out when ex-SNL member Mike Myers made this spoof of the spy genre, including the Bond franchise, “Flint” movies, and just about every spy-related movie you ever saw in your lifetime. The only person I know who went to see it told me it was okay. Within 6 months it went to video and became the #1 rental for an entire month across the U.S. Sales and rentals did so well spawned 2 sequels which, while funny, lacked the story or the heart of the first. It also gave people a reason to go around saying, “Yeah baby, yeah.”

 

 

“Office Space” (1999) – From “Beavis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill” creator Mike Judge came this ode to workplace drudgery. Whether you’re having a “case of the Mondays” or you got memos from 8 different bosses because you forgot the cover on your TPS report, “Office Space” spoke on a level that you and everyone in your cubicle neighborhood empathized with. After hitting video a generation of just graduating high school and/or leaving college to enter the workplace can now recite it on command. Useless trivia: Swingline did NOT offer a red stapler until increasing demands from customers who had seen the movie.

 

 

“Stir of Echoes” (1999) – Based on the Richard Matheson novel, Kevin Bacon is a construction worker who becomes hypnotized by his sister-in-law and “receives” mental messages from a dead girl and begins to unravel her death. This movie came out around the same time as “The Sixth Sense,” and in my opinion was the better choice between the two. Useless trivia: Kevin Bacon’s character in the movie plays guitar. In real life he and his brother put out albums under the “Bacon Brothers.”

 

 

 “Shanghai Noon” (2000) – Following his team-up with Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour,” Jackie Chan teamed up with Owen Wilson in the Western Comedy about an outlaw and a Chinese guard “reject” who are in search of a kidnapped Princess. This movie is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the sequel was less-inspired.