History: Kim and I began collecting movies soon after moving to Italy. San Vito Italy was my first duty station with the Air Force. Separated from the mainstream American culture, we didn't have a lot of choices when it came to television. There was only one t.v. channel broadcast in English: SEB (Southern European Broadcasting). An AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) affiliate. Military television programming was rather austere back in the 80s. Loaded with family oriented programming, and other 'approved' viewing choices. Needless to say my wife and I quickly obtained a VCR, and began watching our own alternate 'channel'. We've been collecting videos ever since. We made the switch to DVD in the early 90's, and we pretty much stick exclusively to DVDs now... Well, time never stands still, does it? and now I own five blu-ray discs...
From the contents of my collection you might be able to learn something about me. There are some really good movies in there, with a few lumps of coal scattered about. Check out the ones rated 5 stars to find my favorites. I've presented the movies in alphabetical order.
My absolute favorite is "Shadow Dragon - The Ninja Movie". Something that my friends and I made back in 1984. We made this movie just before I left for the Air Force. We had a fantastic time making it, and I watch it at least once a year. The movie was originally shot directly to VHS, but a friend (Rob Garrity) edited the footage and produced a master version for VHS. That was back in 1984. It took quite some time, but we've managed to get the movie onto DVD. My cousin (Mike Vaessen) converted it from analog to digital. I edited and remastered the footage. Then I authored the movie, burning it to DVD. It took a lot of work, a G5 powerhouse, and quite a bit of research, but it's now preserved indefinitely in digital format. We often quote from it, reliving our younger days with each utterance of the words "I don't know Joe; Sell your farm!".
I'm sure you're getting tired of listening to me reminisce about my days back home on the farm (I didn't really live on a farm, but I spent a lot of time at the farms of my friends). O.k. on with the list already, without further delay, I present: My Collection of movies. Perhaps you'll find something interesting amongst my pile of ferric-oxide coated mylar, and laser encoded plastic.
Movie Musings: A few disconnected thoughts regarding some of the more recent offerings at the theater. What I didn't like. See if you can follow this formula... Time Machine (The new one) = Planet of the Apes (The re-imagination) = Pearl Harbor = Yuck!
Indeed; I despised all the above films. They were all cheap romance novels disguised as adventure themed movies. The original Planet of the Apes was a fantastic movie, full of social subtext, and political overtones. The original Time Machine was an imaginative romp, which filled viewers with a sense of wonder and hope. Pearl Harbor should have been about the horrors of war and man's ability to overcome adversity. All the movies listed above (in the formula) sucked (in my opinion). They were cheap ticket draws, duping the public into the illusion that they might contain something worth watching. They were merely sappy romance novels, peppered with beautiful people, exploding eye candy, and a watered down excuse of a plot. The remakes listed above are worse than Pearl Harbor. Titanic is one of the few exceptions to my formula - The story and exceptional cinematic work were blended perfectly by a master. The overall experience rose well above the sappy love scenes and overhyped publicity.
What I look for: What exactly is it that makes me like a movie? I think I've figured part of that out. First of all, the acting must be believable. I should never find myself thinking about how this person isn't believable in the role they're playing. I should forget that they're acting. Casting is very important. Secondly, is the director using the characters, set, and plot in a way which helps convey the story? Are all my senses utilized, tantalized, engrossed? By the way, I cannot stand movies where post production sound washes the environment (or music) over the characters lines. It sucks. I don't care whether it's more realistic. The objective is entertainment, and telling the story is more important than realism. If I want realism over story, I'll walk outside the theater and participate in it, or I'll watch an episode of cops. When I'm in the theater watching a movie I want to know what the characters are saying. I want to know what's going on. Thirdly, I enjoy movies with an original and engrossing plot. If I'm constantly predicting (accurately) the plot lines five minutes ahead of the action, then something is definitely wrong with the plot. I like surprises, I like being stumped, I like it when I'm shocked, surprised, scared shitless and forced to emote. Personally, I really enjoy movies where the plot is twisted and complicated.
As an example of a movie I really liked, see π: Faith in Chaos by Darren Arnofsky. I liked it so much that I took notes, and committed them to hard copy. Sometimes I review them, or share them with friends. It's one of very few movies, where I found myself rewinding in order to hear the dialog again. Not because I missed something. But, because I wanted to hear it again, make sure I got it right. Savoring the incredible content of each line. A fantastic movie. Maybe you'd like to read the notes (in pdf format) as well.
What I really despise: Oh how I hate movies where I have to constantly adjust the volume! If the cast is whispering in a night club, I still want to hear what they're saying. I absolutely hate it when I have to hold the remote in my hand, and adjust the volume throughout the movie. O.k. a plane is flying overhead; turn the volume all the way down or become deaf. Oh, they're whispering again; turn the volume all the way up, or I might miss some plot point in the dialog. It's a movie, not reality! Knock it off with the ambient sound already. I know that airplanes are loud, I know that whispering is hard to hear. Stop torturing me already! Any movie that has this problem automatically loses one or two points. Wouldn't it be nice to hear what the actors are saying? I'm trying to follow the plot, but the god dammed crickets are too loud! Another thing I detest is violence for the sake of violence. I'm a non-violent person, and I don't care to watch movies that are simply exhibitions of physical violence.
Reviews: Here's a list of movies I've seen this year. The list contains a short review, synopsis, commentary on each movie. Something like that. The movies are rated 1-5. I subscribe to NetFlix, watch movies from my own collection, and sometimes get out to the theater. The movies from my collection are titled in italics. The rest (unless noted otherwise) are NetFlix rentals. I update this listing throughout the month. Hopefully you'll find a movie or two to watch after perusing my reviews.
Favorites: Back in June of 2005, some friends asked what my all time favorite movies were. Well, I hadn't though much about it at the time. But I've been thinking about it ever since. I guess I'd have to categorize my favorites by genre. I don't have a favorite picked for every category, but I definitely have a few picked out. I'll list the first few here, and I'll add to it as my opinions solidify around the best of each genre.
Comedy: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
A spoof on 1950's sci-fi movies. This little gem always leaves me rolling on the floor. The lines! Oh my god. Whoever wrote this knew what they were doing. The cast are complete unknowns, but that's a good thing. The set and locations are perfect. The film style is also well done. A scientist and the doting 'scientists wife' are investigating a meteorite siting. An evil-scientist is trying to revive the lost skeleton of Cadavra, and a pair of stranded aliens must refuel their space-ship and recover their mutant. Put all these characters together for dinner and watch what happens! It isn't just a funny movie, it's a well crafted parody/homage. Incorporating time tested B (for Bad) movie film techniques, and directing style, this one is well worth the watching. Days later I find myself describing the movie to friends, and falling over with laughter at the comic genius of this movie. A genre defining 5 of 5.
Independent: Pi - Faith in Chaos
Brilliant - A brain twister. Part sci-fi, part history, part documentary. This movie is a shining example of what happens when the right person directs the right film. Shot in black & white, this cerebral thriller confounds the senses. Pleasing to the eye, enthralling to the ears and captivating the mind. The mysteries abound in this strange movie about math and religion. Can someone find god through science? Great casting, great acting and absolutely unstoppable writing. I enjoyed this movie so much that I analyzed it from beginning to end and took copious notes. A solid 5 of 5.
You might be wondering why I've got a sci-fi movie in the horror slot. It's simple. This movie created a dark mood, a claustrophobic horror flick that chilled me to the bone. This is one of those movies where I just couldn't get to sleep afterwards. I must have jumped out of my seat a hundred times. The music, the lighting, the sounds, the story, the Monster! This movie scared me more than the exorcist. The work of H.R. Giger, the colors, costumes, textures, sweat and violence created a world of fear that the crew couldn't escape from. This is the kind of movie that makes your heart quiver in your chest, you're breath comes in shallow spurts, and the adrenalin runs rampant through your bloodstream. I felt like a train wreak after watching this horror masterpiece! Genre defying 5 out of 5.
Science Fiction: Blade Runner
My favorite sci-fi movie. Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James and others. This movie is based on a novel by Philip K Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), the quintessential cyber-punk author. Many of his books have been made into movies (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly), and this is one which received some excellent attention. Ridley Scott's direction and the screen play writers did an outstanding job, as did the actors. Harrison Ford plays a less than heroic detective in a seedy, down-and-out dark future, where clones, robots and people are packed together in an increasingly tense and violent existence. Rutger Hauer and a group of his friends? play model 6 replicants, searching for mortality and morality beyond their programmed termination dates. This movie isn't a simple, single genre, single theme movie. It's deep, layered, subtle and complex. The brooding, moody, 80's music was as dark as the film, and fit as snuggly as a synthetic hand. The performances in this movie were exceptional. The sets, lighting, and costumes helped created a vision of the future that has been often emulated but never duplicated. The special effects for their time were astonishing. A technological achievement seldom equaled, never exceeded. A great movie. A genre defining/defying 5 out of 5.
Action: The chronicles of Riddick As an action flick, Riddick rises above the tide. A cinematic masterpiece, music that enhances the visual expression, costumes that speak of a deeper vision, sets and special effects worthy of a cinematic experience. There are action scenes unlike any other movie. Combat that is a blur, a montage, a transmogrified visual representation of pain and fury. The characters are swept up in a fast paced story that leaves this audience wishing for more. More background, better acting, and a deeper meaning. The DVD version that I own is an unrated director's cut. The additional scenes add character depth, motivation, and additional background for this sci-fi inferno of non-stop action and thrilling adventure. 5 out of 5.
Documentary: Dogtown and Z-Boys
A documentary about surfers turned skaters. The revolutionary Zephyr team and how they created the Skate culture in America. A great documentary. Well directed, great narration, excellent music, and a visual style that complements the rebellious nature of the subject. The video production contained some really good fades, cuts and scene effects. Very well done. Mixing live interviews, vintage film footage, stills and narration - You don't have to be a skate punk to enjoy this documentary. These innovators tore up the pavement with more than polyurethane. This was a documentary about boys who would be kings. Alpha males one and all. They lived the life, became the legends and led a revolution. 5 out of 5.
Foreign: The Seven Samurai
(Japanese - Shichinin no samurai) Black & White, produced in 1954 and directed by Akira Kurisawa, this movie is a magnificent piece of cinematic art. Fantastic acting, great direction, masterful choreography, outstanding music, and a terrific story. This movie has been remade a few times, most notably as The Magnificent Seven, but the original version is the best. 17th century Japanese farmers hire ronin Samurai to protect them from a group of marauding bandits. This 3.5 hour movie contains plenty of drama, comedy, and action. A great epic. A classic. This movie started me on a path of director appreciation. Before this work, I used to follow actors nor directors. That all changed after I saw two movies by Akira Kurosawa. I give it a 5 out of 5.
Drama: Cool Hand Luke Magnificent film. Truly classic. Paul Newman's performance in this movie goes way beyond the standard performance. Understated and flippant; Newman plays the character like a concert pianist. The writing (Novel and screenplay) by Don Pearce was fantastic. The directing by Stuart Rosenburg (aka Alan Smithee) was outstanding. The main character is convicted of destroying public property and sent to a rural southern prison camp, where he works on a chain gang and strives to maintain his identity in a destructive atmosphere. He attempts escape on several occasions, and the warden is not happy. "What we have here is a failure to communicate." This one gets a 5 out of 5. Netflix sure has me figured out. It recommended this movie based on my rating of the following movies: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, On the Waterfront, Deliverance, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Dirty Dozen, Dog Day Afternoon and Chinatown. I rated all these movies 5 out of 5. Keep up the good work NetFlix.
Western: High Noon Masterful movie work by Fred Zinnemann. This movie featured brilliant casting - Starring Gary Cooper, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Grace Kelly, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr, Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and many others. The story of a lawman about to retire with his new wife. As he's about to leave town and settle down, he learns that his arch-nemesis has been released from prison. Due in on the noon train, he's looking to settle an old square. The Marshall decides to stick around for the final show-down. Knowing that it may spell certain doom, he sticks to his gun for what he know's is right. If he high-tails it the town will pay dearly. He attempts to recruit some help, but in the end it's him against the gang. This is a fabulous movie. The pacing is absolutely fantastic. A real-time drama that unfolds in a little under 90 minutes. As the clock counts down, the tensions rise and the outlook gets dimmer. The ending is fantastic, and I've got to get a copy of this movie. The writing was simple, tight, taught and thoroughly enjoyable. The camera work was great and the music was truly exceptional. Especially the Tex Ritter ballad. 5 out of 5.
The 'Must Watch' List: Movies I'd like to see. Some are in the theater now, some will have to wait until they percolate through my NetFlix queue (which is WAY larger than this list (NetFlix won't let me have more than 500 movies in my queue at any one time. Take a guess, how many do you think I've got in my queue?)), and some I may never see. But here they are anyway. Hopefully I'll get to see some of them. Note: Many of these movie are in NetFlix's 'Not Yet Released' queue, and some aren't even available for that queue yet. Movies in green italics are not yet available on DVD (or Netflix watch instantly), so it might be some time before I get to see them.
Towards the end of the movie "Cinema Paradiso", there's a scene where the main character is looking for a note written on the back of a film shipping receipt. As the main character reads off the titles on the receipts, it's apparent that this was the director's way of listing some important movies. Movies that helped create the character portrayed in the film. The shipping receipts constitute a list of movies that I'd like to watch. Unfortunately, many of these movies are not available on DVD yet. Here's a list of the movies that were mentioned.
Magnificent Obsession (1954 version) Seen (Comcast on demand) and reviewed in May of '07. It got a 4 of 5. Not available on DVD
The Cry (Italian - Grido, Il (1957)) - Seen and reviewed in March of '05. It got a 4 out of 5.
Moby Dick (1956 version) - Viewed in Aug of '08. Rated it 5 out of 5.
The movie "My Voyage to Italy" was a fantastic auto-biographical documentary by the director Martin Scorsese. In this movie, Scorsese talks about early Italian cinema, and the films that helped shape his life's work. As he analyzes and waxes on these classic movies, we see into the soul of a native American son. We see the heritage that lives in all of us, the tragic, dramatic and powerful images that shaped our generation. While I've already seen some of the movies he mentioned, I learned of many more which interest me. I can only hope that these great works will one day be recognized by the American audience at large. Here is a list of some of the movies mentioned in the documentary. These are the movies that I'm planning to watch. There are many more mentioned, but I've already seen some of them, and others are unavailable on DVD. If your a fan of well crafted movies, despite their origin or age, do yourself a favor - Enjoy your own 'Voyage to Italy', rent some of these movies. The year of release is original release date, not the U.S. release date.
La Dolce Vita (1960) - dir. Federico Fellini. Seen and reviewed, Sep of 2007. It got a 4 out of 5.
Umberto D. (1952) - dir. Vittorio De Sica. Seen and reviewed, Feb of 2008. It got 4 out of 5.
La Terra Trema (1948 / Terra trema: Episodio del mare, La) - dir. Luchino Visconti. Seen and reviewed, Jun of 2008. It got 4 out of 5.
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950 / Francesco, giullare di Dio) - dir. Roberto Rossellini. Seen and reviewed, Aug of 2008. Rated 3 out of 5.
Germany, Year Zero (1948 / Germania anno zero) - dir Roberto Rossellini. Mar of 2008. 4 out of 5.
Ossessione (1943) - dir. Luchino Visconti . Seen and reviewed, Feb '08. I rated it 4 out of 5.
Cabiria (1914) - dir. Giovanni Pastrone. Seen and reviewed, May of 2008. It got a 2 out of 5.
Shoeshine (1946 / Sciuscià) - dir. Vittorio De Sica. Reviewed Jul of 2011. I gave it a 4 out of 5.
The Crowd (1928) - dir. King Vidor (not yet released) An American film.
The Damned (1969 / La Caduta degli dei) - dir. Luchino Visconti . Seen and reviewed, Feb of 2008. 4 out of 5.
Why would I bother watching some of these movies? Who knows, many reasons - pick one. For some it's because of the actor/actress, for others it's the director. Maybe I read a favorable review, or saw a preview that looked good.
How's that for a lineup? Looks like there'll be a lot of movies worth watching in the coming year. Some of the titles have links to trailers, if you've got DSL or cable, check 'em out. Other links are just IMDB listings.
The 'Must Buy' List: Movies I plan on purchasing. I probably won't buy all of them, some I'll buy as soon as they become available. Some I'll wait a while for. Some I'll hope for as Christmas gifts. Anyway, I've seen all of them, and liked them enough to put them on this list. Some I'll buy pre-viewed, some I'll buy retail, some I'll buy through eBay. Some will stay on the list until I find them in the VHS bargain bin.
Why would I want to buy any of these movies? For the same reasons I'd want to watch them. Movies I've seen, loved, and rated highly. None of these are impulse buys. These were selected from movies I've rated highly. Only the really good stuff makes it's way to this list. * - Recently ordered
What have I acquired lately?: I've purchased a few movies during 2012; a few must have gems. I've slowed way down on my movie purchases; as a matter of fact, I'm beginning to wonder why I should purchase movies. Netflix maintains 'my library'. Any time I want to watch a movie, I put it in my DVD queue (If I don't already own it, if it's not on 'Watch Instantly'). I wait a couple of days. Netflix delivers the DVD, I watch it and return it. Why do I need my own copies? It's a difficult concept to embrace. I've always been taught that I must own something to derive enjoyment from it. Slowly the American public is beginning to realize that digital content makes access far easier, and ownership less of a necessity when it comes to media.
Over the last several months I've purchased a few movies. Purchased here and there, some were on my 'must buy list' while others were impulse purchases while waiting in line at the local Wal-Mart (yes I'm still guilty of that particular capitalist sin). Other than the Wal-Mart impulse purchases, I also purchased a few DVDs, one Blu-Ray disc, and a couple digital movies (through the iTunes store). Here's the latest acquisitions.
* Night of Horror - Do not watch alone!: Purchased in the Wal-Mart check out aisle. Here's a 15 movie collection of B-Movie horror flicks. The case listed a slew of cheesy horror movies that I've already seen; so I figured I'd take a chance on the others. I haven't seen all of them, and it may take me some time to watch them all, but who knows; if I'm lucky, I might find a few gems in the rough. Here's the titles included in this compilation: Night Fright (Already seen. rated 1 of 5); Night of the Blood Beast (Already seen. Rated 3 of 5); She Beast (Already seen. Rated 2 out of 5); Last Woman on Earth (Roger Corman directed. Already seen. Rated 2 out of 5); Horror Express (Peter Cushing, Cristopher Lee, Telly Savalas. Already seen. Rated 4 out of 5); Die Sister, Die! (Antoinette Bower. Already seen. Rated 2 out of 5); Good Against Evil (Kim Cattrall. Already seen. Rated 1 out of 5); Invasion of the Bee Girls (William Smith (acting legend - not Will Smith) and Anitra Ford - Rated 2 out of 5); The Cat O' Nine Tails (Karl Malden - Rated 3 out of 5); Memorial Valley Massacre (William Smith (acting legend - not Will Smith) - Rated 1 out of 5); Messiah of Evil (Royal Dano - Rated 3 out of 5); Isle of the Snake People (Boris Karloff stars alongside a sexy Yolanda Montes. I give it a 2 out of 5); The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave; The Terror (Roger Corman directed - Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight - A fairly good Giallo. I gave it a 3 out of 5); They Came from Beyond Space (Already saw it. Rated 2 of 5)
* The Matador: Purchased from Amazon.com for $5.95 - Starring Pierce Brosnan as a contract killer, this movie was a refreshing change of pace. Not to far off the mark from a Bond flick, this movie was perfectly cast for Brosnan. It allowed him to explore some acting development that he'd been denied in his previously type cast roles. The story was great as well. A contract killer connects with a normal joe. Later the killer needs normal joes help in order to pull one last job. The best part of the movie was definitely Brosnan's portrayal of this amoral killer at the end of his rope. There were some great graphics, visuals, cinematic work and music in this movie. The combination of all these elements made for a thoroughly enjoyable movie. I loved it. 5 out of 5.
* Mad Max: Purchased in the discount bin at Wal-Mart for $5.00. It's been quite some time since I've seen this post apocalyptic classic starring Mel Gibson. How could it possibly be missing from my collection?
* High Plains Drifter: Another Wal-Mart discount bin gem. Only $5.00 for Eastwood's first effort at Western direction. Directed by, and starring, Clint Eastwood. A very good movie. It's evident that Clint Eastwood learned a lot from working with Sergio Leonne, and it comes out in this movie. I can even see connections to Akira Kurosawa movies in this one. A great tale of good and evil. Well, mostly evil. A corrupt town hires a complete stranger in an attempt to cleanse it's soul and save their lives. The stranger (who is never named), turns out to be a catalyst for evil, drawing it out into the open on a blood red day of reckoning. A great movie. One of Eastwood's early directing roles. Showed his true potential. This one gets a 4 out of 5.
* Cronos: I had to wait quite some time to get my hands on a copy of Cronos, but this Criterion Collection Blu-Ray copy contains loads of extras and excellent restored footage. I've seen this film before, but Criterion recently (2010) released the film in Blu-Ray, and I watched the Cronos release on Netflix's 'Watch Instantly' streaming service. Unfortunately, the streaming suffered from sever stutter, and sound synching problems. Fortunately, the film was just as good as I remember it. The feature film debut directed by Guilermo del Toro. The screen play was also written by Guilermo. Starring Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman. This movie was better than I'd have thought it might be. Mexican movies don't exactly have a very good reputation, but I like Ron Perlman and Guilermo del Toro directed some pretty good movies: Blade II, Hellboy, Mimic, Pan's Labyrinth, and one of my favorites: The Devil's Backbone. Cronos is a thrilling horror flick with a dark sense of humor. A vampire movie with a completely reworked vampire origin. An ancient, golden, clock-work device that extends life is the source of much obsession and anguish. In the end love conquers over greed. Ron Perlman's acting has rarely better, and the acting by Federico Luppi was outstanding. The special/mechanical effects were excellent., but the best part of this movie was the challenging, intelligent, horror story. This one gets a 5 out of 5.
* The Limits of Control: Another discount purchase through Amazon.com. At only $3.97, this art film by Jim Jarmusch is an amazing steal. Isaach de Bakolé plays an enigmatic assassin in this art-house release from Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise, Night on Earth, Broken Flowers, Z-Channel - A Magnificent Obsession). An very odd/unconventional film. Isaach is a hired assassin, but he doesn't know who he's supposed to kill, and neither do we. He doesn't know where he's supposed to be, and neither do we. As he goes about his day, various shady figures/interesting characters approach him, engage him in conversation (even though they know that he doesn't speak Spanish) and provide him with his next clue - A short five letter cipher; which he looks at, then eats. Filled with odd characters, amazing camera work, perfect pacing, editing, lighting, color and sound. Wonderful architecture, rich location shots, a great sound track and a puzzle as twisted as they get. The nude scenes with Tilda Swinton were unexpected but appreciated! and the quiet introspective primary character was a joy to puzzle over. This serene, sublime movie contained no narrative, no exposition, and very little dialogue. If you love cerebral mystery, art, and independent film, you'll find a gem in this amazing work. 5 out of 5. Not for everyone. This movie is rated quite low on Netflix, but I give it high praise. If you know me, you'd understand what's going on here. You couldn't force me to watch Transformers II. As a matter of fact, I'd rather watch grass growing! 5 out of 5.
* Prometheus: A digital purchase from the iTunes Store. I bought the HD/SD version with plenty of extras for $16.20 (with tax). Despite the critics calling it confusing. I find it to be a masterpiece of exploration, human curiosity and a strong foundation for a legendary franchise. Another masterpiece by director Ridley Scott (The Duelists, Alien, Blade Runner, Black Rain, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster). Ridley Scott returns to his roots with this sci-fi epic. An origins movie for the Alien mythos. It's hard to characterize/categorize this movie. It's sci-fi, drama, horror, action, adventure. The atmosphere, pacing and tone of this movie are perfect. The landscapes and cinematography breathtaking. I originally thought it was filmed in Antarctica, then Greenland, then Alaska, The New Zealand? Nah - can't be… Much of the movie was filmed in Iceland and the landscapes are raw, primordial and full of energy. Not strictly a prequel to the movie Alien, the story is a prequel to the entire Alien series. I've seen all the Alien films, and consider the original to be one of my favorite all time movies. The story in this prequel is an adventure to discover the origins of life on Earth. Scientist discover a clue that points to a star system far from our system. A hyper-sleep ship is staffed with scientists, technicians and a group of no-nonsense space truckers sent on their way to discover the source of this mysterious clue. When they arrive, they discover the remains of a civilization from a distant past. I won't say much more than that, for fear of spoiling the movie. Of course there's an alien/aliens - It's an Alien origins movie. The technology in this movie pays homage to the spartan late 70s, early 80s look as well as the crowded, cluttered look of the movie Alien. The movie is filled with technology, alien landscapes, pseudo-religious imagery and terrifying creatures. I love that the movie isn't overburdened with unnecessary exposition, and there are more than enough opportunities for a sequel to fill the gap between this movie and the first 'Alien'. The performances were excellent. Michael Fassbender was outstanding in both his roles. As an android discovering his individuality and an android who bases his persona on the mythic ideals of a romantic past in the Lawrence of Arabia character. Many actors in the cast provided interesting characters to drive the dramatic aspects of the movie. Noomi Rapace did a good job in her role, but she has much more to learn about subtlety in performance, and there wasn't really enough time in the movie to properly develop all the characters. The movie is intense, grisly, dark and dramatic. The film contains more than enough cringe worthy and jump out of your seat moments, and fans of action will find more than enough to pump up the adrenalin. The cgi was nearly perfect, with very natural movement, surfaces and movement. The editing was well done, blending cgi and real action in a expert manner. The movie works on it's own, but it's primarily fashioned as a prequel to the entire Alien series. There are a few homage moments in the set production and dialog, and those few gems made me smile upon recognition. I give it a 5 out of 5.
* The Avengers:
Another purchase from the iTunes Store. This time the cost was a bit higher. At $21.60, this HD/SD combo includes a slew of extras and the digital copies allows me to play the movies on several different media devices. The big screen HD in the living room, the HD plasma TV in the basement, my iPhone, the iPad, and any of our computers. The digital copies are quite convenient, especially when Apple makes them available for download anywhere I might happen to be. No need to keep it sync'd to my iPhone. If I want to watch it on the plane, I can download it just before I board, watch it while I'm on the flight, and delete it when I'm done. Now that's convenient. I don't need to carry the disc around, or keep the copy synced to my device. I like these digital copies. Awesome movie - It was on my list, and I was a little surprised when Kim said she wanted to go see it. I insisted on 3D - If you're going to watch a movie in 3D, then this is the sort of movie you should watch. A big-screen, blockbuster with lots of explosions, fight scenes and blazing fast superhero action. The tickets cost us $29.00 for two adults - Seriously?! The cost of the 3D experience is way out of line with the experience, and I can't understand how they get away with it. Back to the movie. As I said, this one was on my list, so I didn't put up much of a fight when Kim said we should go see the movie. Yes I was a comic book collector. I still have some old copies in a box somewhere. I read many Marvel comics. I knew the Avengers and I read the exploits of many such heroes when I was a young boy. Despite my less than enthusiastic response to some of the individual Avenger movies (Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk), this movie is outstanding. The cast (Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Ironman; Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America; Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk; Chris Hemsworth as Thor; Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye; Tom Hiddleston as Loki; and many others) worked well together and the acting was pretty good. Mark Ruffalo was much better as the Hulk than previous attempts. As individuals, the acting and movies weren't all that good. Together as members of S.H.I.E.L.D. they did an excellent job. The movie was expertly written and directed by one of my favorite directors: Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog). It's entertaining, filled with action, humor, heart and thrilling drama. A summer block-buster with plot cohesion, plenty of character development, outstanding cinematography, choreography, and some amazing production. Be sure to stay through all the credits to see the extra scenes. I give this movie (we saw it in 3D) a 5 out of 5
With these new purchases, I updated my main movies page, the listings in my movie collection, and an alphabetical index that I'm working on. Hopefully my next movie purchase won't be an impulse buy at the checkout counter. The movies on my 'Must Buy'' list are much better choices, but they can't always be found in the discount bin of a grocery store.
Netflix is awesome. It's easy to use - Point-N-Click to pick your movies on the web. It's inexpensive - As of 14 Jan, 2012, we're paying $19.98 per month for two discs out at a time ($11.99) + unlimited streaming ($7.99). From October 16th - Nov 15th, 2008, Kim and I saw 34 shows on DVD, and 59 using our Roku Player (see below). That's a total of 93 shows! If you calculate the cost per movie (we were on a 4 at-a-time plan at the time (for $23.99 / month ($25.87 w/tax)), that comes out to approximately $0.28 per show; an immense savings over the other rental options (which are slowly dropping out of the race). It's convenient - No need to drive to the rental place (there's some more savings!). It's got a huge variety of movies - Over 130,000 at last count*. If you've got a PC or an Intel based Mac, you can watch 28,000* titles instantly on your computer. You can even stream Netflix (Mac or PC) to a compatible media device (I use my Apple TVs (2nd, 3rd and 1st generations), one of two Roku players, a Samsung BD-P3600 blu-ray player, a Sony BDP-S185 blu-ray player, my Computer, one of our MacBook Pro laptops, my iPhone (currently carrying a 4S), and my iPad (2nd generation)). Netflix movies can be streamed to a stand alone set-top box such as the Roku player, iPad, iPhone, the new Apple TV, an X-Box 360, The PS3, the Wii, a TiVo, a growing selection of Blu-Ray players, home theater systems and internet connected televisions. The cost for streaming? Well, as of late 2011, you can add streaming to any of the 'disc-at-a-time' plans, or go for streaming only - for $7.99 a month.
Speaking of streaming, if you're looking for a way to stream video content (from Netflix and hundreds of other sources), The Roku box works like a charm. I oughta know, I started using one in September of 2008! One of my favorite Netflix features is the fact that it makes recommendations (when you rate movies that you've watched), and the recommendations get better as you rate more movies. With 50 distribution centers, most movies are delivered in one business day. Oh, yeah one other thing - No due dates and no late fees! I recommend Netflix to all my movie watching friends.
Kim and I are currently (as of 16 Sep, 2011) using the 2 discs-at-a-time + watch instantly streaming. That plan costs us $19.98 / month ($21.55 w/tax). We find the 'Watch Instantly' variety and convenience have more than made up for a reduction in the number of discs out at a time. We were on a five-at-a-time plan at one point (switched to two out at a time in Nov of 2010).
*These numbers are estimates based on the results of some Feedflix analysis reported to their blog on the 10th of Sep 2010. Netflix hasn't updated their 'official' numbers since at least 31 Mar, 2010.
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