RaaD Movies, News and Technology

Dany's RaaD Roundup

Beowulf

After watching Beowulf in IMAX 3D, there are so many things to talk about.

It is hard to believe that this film was given a PG-13 rating. I don’t usually talk about ratings due to my dislike of the MPAA ratings board, but I HAD to talk about it since the entire time I was watching it, the film felt like it was rated R. It was an odd, almost dirty, experience watching this digitally enhanced film style, which looks like almost completely lifelike digital cartoon characters in such adult oriented battles, conversations and seductions. I say almost because the characters look more lifelike than the scenes I saw from the last major movies to try this style: The Polar Express and Final Fantasy: The Sprits Within. The characters look amazing in still photos, but when it comes to characters actually speaking, emotions aren’t conveyed completely convincingly yet. The problem is that while the characters’ mouths move, their cheeks and eyes don’t move enough in relation to their lips. When happy people talk and are smiling, their lips don’t just turn up, but the skin on their cheeks rise and you usually see lines form around their eyes. In essence, a person’s whole face lights up, which is not something that was able to be conveyed accurately, but the technology is getting better and better with each movie like this, but until this technique is nailed, characters come off at times having a conversation with what look like dead eyes (aka the uncanny valley).

Interestingly enough, this animation technique is amazingly effective at making female characters look forever young. Angelina Jolie‘s face looked amazingly real (basically because you almost never SEE her talk and when you do, she talks in a tone intentionally devoid of emotion) and beautiful. On a similar note Robin Wright Penn‘s queen is seen as a young bride and then later in the film as an older queen, but the animation style makes her look as if she had barely aged. The aging process for the male actors (Ray Winstone, John Malkovich and Brendan Gleeson) was MUCH more convincing, I wonder if that has anything to do with Hollywood reluctance for seeing old looking women, while being comfortable looking at older looking men… All of the scenery and nonhuman characters (dragons, monsters, animals, etc) looked great though!

The IMAX 3D experience was pretty good too. The 3D part was done well, even if a bit unnecessary, but it was not destracting. The effect was more interesting and worked better when objects were pulling away from the camera (when the camera pulls back from a focal point, like having the camera pull back from the mead hall through a forest, allowing you to watch trees whisk farther away from the camer) than when objects are tossed towards the audience (characters throwing coins at the audience), it felt less distracting that way.

It’s hard to find fault in the telling of this classic story (from the amazing epic poem), it’s a bit simple, but this is one of the oldest and most interesting surviving hero stories (with it’s underlying complex story that come full circle and juxtapose the differences and similarities between the two famous kings: Beowulf and Hrothgar) which is told extremely well.

I had a great time watching this movie and hope this technology matures enough in the upcoming years to convince George Lucas to utilize it in the creation of the last Star Wars trilogy (Episodes 7-9). The process of being able to make actors look both young and old, regardless of the actors’ actual ages would be very useful over 20 years after Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

Thanks to the NYTimes Bits Blog for the pic.

Dany

Advertisements

November 28, 2007 12:12 am Posted by | movie reviews, movies | 1 Comment

Mr. T Can Hack WoW

When it comes to awesome, not many things beat Mr. T, but in this case NOTHING beats Mr. T when he’s hacking massively multiplayer videogames.

Thanks to Net@Nite for unearthing this insanity.

Dany

November 25, 2007 9:50 pm Posted by | clips, commercials, crazy celebs, podcasts, video games | 1 Comment

Holiday Shopping and Sales

With Thanksgiving here in the US, it’s now time to think about holiday shopping if you haven’t done so already. Well, the best way to do this is to look for the best sales. Why pay more for the same product later when you can get it now deeply reduced in price, right?

This is where the web and technology can help. I was listening to the PCMag radio podcast (here’s the iTunes subscription link as well) and they gave 3 great sites that unleash holiday sales secrets upon the public, sometimes before all those circulars go out in newspapers and even before some companies even want you to know about their sales prices.

So, here are 3 good sites that can help you find all those in store and web only sales deals for things like books, movies, tv shows, technology goodies, clothing or whatever else you want.

Black Friday Ads, Deal News and Black Friday Gear.

If you find anything that you actually end up buying after going to any of these sites, don’t forget to let me know about it. I know I’m going to be looking for a backup hard drive to back up all my data.

Happy Shopping!

Dany

November 22, 2007 11:18 pm Posted by | movies, podcasts, technology, tv, vaporware, video games | Leave a comment

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is not only one of the longest film names in recent film history, but also a fun kids movie. I say that deliberately, unlike a lot of the recent Pixar/Dreamworks animated films that have come out since the mid 1990’s, which have been both fun for kids for their story and entertaining for adults, with the references that only they would comprehend, Mr. Magorium

is truly a movie for kids. There are no adult references, just a sweet movie whose main star isn’t actually Dustin Hoffman or even Natalie Portman, but the Wonder Emporium toy store itself!

The toy store, which is a tiny two story building sandwiched between reality in the form of two skyscrapers in the middle of the city is definately a place of wonder. It is filled with real toys that actually look like a lot of fun to play with and as one of my favorite reviewers, James Berardinelli, deftly described it, “a toy store that makes FAO Schwartz look like a K-Mart.” The store comes to life, which makes the toys that much more fun to play with. There is even a cameo by everyone’s favorite green muppet.

Dustin Hoffman‘s Magorium has owned the store for well over one hundred years and Natalie Portman‘s Mahoney is the store manager and has been working there since she was a young teen and Zach Mills is the story’s narrator, the store’s best customer and friend to both Magorium and Mahoney. Magorium decides to hire an accountant, Jason Bateman, affectionately referred to as “mutant,” to take formal account of the store’s worth. Bateman‘s role in the film is as the strait man to all the wackiness that goes on inside the Wonder Emporium.

This is not a great film, there is no conflict, only the star of the movie becoming sad and Mahoney not sure what she wants to do with her life, but the film is only 90 minutes and any longer would have hurt the film and kids won’t want to see this film for the conflict, they will just enjoy being immersed inside the magical toy store. The scenes between Zach Mills and Jason Bateman are fun to watch, especially as the film progresses.

Also, I can’t forget to mention that this is the first film I can remember that has an end credit sequence that made me laugh, just in the way it was organized into funny categories like “People Who Made Sure People Got Paid” there is also a humble and funny little credit cookie after the last credit rolls. After watching Southland Tales and ESPECIALLY Lions for Lambs, I needed to watch a movie that would just be fun and this movie worked for what I needed. Parents may want to avoid this film and wait for another family film, maybe Kung Fu Panda, but kids will probably have a great time with this film.

Thanks to the IMP Awards for the poster pic.

Dany

November 18, 2007 8:01 pm Posted by | movie reviews, movies | Leave a comment

Lions for Lambs

Lions for Lambs has strong scenes, but lacks story. Meryl Streep bounces back from Rendition with a strong performance in this film and she plays the type of character that would try and spend the rest of her career working to end the career of the last character she played in Rendition and maybe even slap her in the face in the process. The scenes between her and Tom Cruise were the strongest parts of this movie, the ONLY other scenes that work are the flashbacks of Robert Redford‘s former students: Michael Peña and Derek Luke while they are still in college.

I don’t think Redford does a very good job directing either. His action sequences do not bring life to this film and his scenes inside the professor’s office talking with his current student, don’t seem to go anywhere. There are times when you think he’s trying to recruit Andrew Garfield for the military, maybe to run for congress or just to start caring again, but whatever it is he is trying to do, it doesn’t come off convincing. If I were Garfield, I would have just chosen to never come back to that class after that performance.

Also, the ideas purported in are nothing new and not even clearly stated. Blaming a lazy, profit seeking corporate media and the government that takes advantage of that to go to war is nothing fresh in 2007 and neither is a reporter’s protest against yet another new strategy for victory, which makes this film utterly forgettable.

Thanks to Worst Previews for the pic.

Dany

November 18, 2007 6:05 pm Posted by | movie reviews, movies | 3 Comments

Southland Tales of Nonsense and the End of the World

There are many thins that can be said about Richard Kelly‘s sophomore directorial outing, but the main thing I realized while watching this film was just how much Kelly has and tries to satiate his End of the World fetish. If the Saw series of movies helped to start a theme of Torture Porn, then Kelly is trying to create what I’m dubbing End World porn or trying to make an Epic Comedy, maybe even making both.

The problem is that here, in Southland Tales, it doesn’t work. There are a lot of great actors, some amazing visuals, the camera work and set design were completely enriching and a joy to take in… but the story and characters were completely off the wall. The film was so absurd that people were just laughing at the movie in all the places laughter was not intended. The only actors left unscathed were Wallace Shawn, who I’m convinced can pull off ANYTHING, his description of Liquid Karma, while on a beach in a silver, form fitting jumpsuit was probably the highlight of the film and also, Justin Timberlake (it pains me to say it too). Between his twisted role here (as well as his attempt to make SOME sort of sense of this film’s plot with his narration) and his performance in Black Snake Moan, I could really start to like the guy… if he could stick to movies and drop trying to be cooler than Michael Jackson in the music world.

Just about the only entertaining about the film was finding the Donnie Darko homages peppered through the film, like the posters of the iconic giant bunny mask, a large government agency trying to uncover the secrets to the plot (in Darko it was the FAA, now it’s the NSA with the USIdent system) and his fascination with both the end of the world and character’s getting their left eye blown away from a gunshot.

It is really too bad, this movie featured music by Moby and almost the entire cast of California (Including a heavily makeupped Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo was in the film originally, until her role was cut in the reediting that took place after the disastrous reception the film received in Cannes).

Thanks to AwardsDaily for the pic and Roger Ebert for the reporting from Cannes.

Dany

November 18, 2007 3:32 pm Posted by | crazy celebs, movie reviews, movies, music | 1 Comment

dotBoom Self Loathing Puppets

If you enjoy a good comedy with puppets, this is the show for you.  If you enjoy self deprecating comedy about the inner workings of a web design firm, this is the show for you. This show is dotBoom, it is made up in Canada and is hilarious, this clip is a  short example of their type of humor, the man in this video is the creator of this series, writes the shows and makes the puppets.

You can subscribe in iTunes over here or just subscribe here if you don’t use iTunes.

Dany

November 15, 2007 10:33 pm Posted by | clips, podcasts | Leave a comment

No Country for Old Men

 

There is so much to say about this film, but first things first. This is probably the best Coen Brothers film since their amazingly different one-two punch of Fargo (1996) then The Big Lebowski (1998). Don’t get me wrong, I loved the oft forgotten The Man Who Wasn’t There as well as the Coenization of The Oddessey, O Brother, Where Art Thou? but they were nowhere near as entertaining as the films these two brothers made during the mid-to-late 1990’s.

Javier Bardem is able to play one of the most creepy characters I’ve seen on screen, maybe since Anthony Hopkins mastered the role of Dr. Hannibal Lecter to became a movie icon in 1991. Josh Brolin creates a character that is a polar opposite to his most recent role in American Gangster. Even Jimmy James… err, Stephen Root, made an appearance in this film, albeit a small one, man I miss Newsradio.

This film is chock full of wonderfully shot scenes, interesting dialogue, tight editing and some of the most gruesome gunfights (other makeshift weapons are used too) this year. This film is 2 hours long and every minute is filled with something worth watching. Go see this film… What are you waiting for, GO! NOW! Put down that burrito and go already.

Thanks to iwatchstuff for the above pic.

Dany

November 13, 2007 3:56 am Posted by | movie reviews, movies | 1 Comment

Telsa can Do the Mario

In what has to be some of the coolest videos I’ve seen on youtube in quite a while, the Super Mario Bros. theme was played on GIANT Tesla coils. Watch the videos and bask in the awesomeness! I love how much everyone still loves the 8-bit plumber hero, Mario, after all these years.

Thanks to Webbalert for being amazing on a daily basis and finding this story.

Dany

November 9, 2007 9:24 pm Posted by | clips, technology | Leave a comment

Felt Mouse

 After seeing the wooden mouse, getting a look at this mouse, apparently covered with felt, just looks completely stupid. Sure it would probably feel all nice and felty, but look at those corners, those don’t look too fun. Also, there’s no click wheel, the idea of a mouse without some sort of scroll wheel is completely obsolete.

Stupid tech just makes me mad. Thanks engadget for reminding me again why tech can be so aggravating.

Dany

November 9, 2007 12:56 am Posted by | technology | Leave a comment