Feb. 27, 2011

Oscar Party Foods 2011

I love movies, but I’ve never been all that excited about the Oscars. I suppose that I don’t have that much interest in the pomp and circumstance of the awards and I generally prefer just to read the results the next day.

On the other hand, I do enjoy language and puns, and if you’re holding an Oscar party this evening, you’re welcome to use any of these. (I’ve grouped them by nomination category, although not every category is represented.)

I’ve listed only the names of each dish (with links to recipes), but if you hover your mouse over an item, you’ll see a tooltip revealing the nominee from which the dish was inspired.

(Some of them are more obvious than others, but if you need a hint, here’s the official list of this year’s nominees.)

Best Picture

Art Direction

Foreign Language Film

Makeup

Music (Original Song)

Short Film (Animated)

Sound Mixing

Visual Effects

April 11, 2010

Review: Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Louis Leterrier took to the director’s chair for Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. Given that Leterrier has done some halfway decent films (such as the first two Transporter movies), I was cautiously optimistic going into the theater.

My review gets more into it, but the short of it is that I would generally concur with Metacritic’s score of 39 (“Generally unfavorable reviews”). Actually, scratch that, I would have to slightly disagree with Metacritic’s score—if only to the extent that even 39 might be a little too generous.

Review: Clash of the Titans (2010) from A. Bischoff on Vimeo.

Feb. 12, 2010

Review: From Paris with Love

From Paris with Love is a new action movie starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. To get right down to it, I had a fun time and I rather liked it. In fairness though, I’ll also point out that it currently has a score of 42 at Metacritic (which equates to “mixed or average reviews”).

If you like action movies, I think it could be worth a shot.

Review: From Paris with Love from Alex Bischoff on Vimeo.

Feb. 1, 2010

Death at a Funeral Trailer Mashup—2007 vs 2010

I was a bit surprised when I recently came across the trailer for the remake of Death at a Funeral. (After all, the first one only came out in 2007.) Just to see how the films compared, I made a mashup trailer out of the two trailers—and, yeah, there are a few similarities. (For one thing, Peter Dinklage stars in both films.)

Minor spoilers below. But, heck, I’m talking about stuff that’s in the trailer(s) anyway.

Admittedly, I haven’t seen either film, but on a more serious note, one thing that struck me was the wafting homophobia in each of the trailers. The unmashed-up version of the trailer for the 2010 remake, for instance, includes a shot of Martin Lawrence’s character in a full-body grimace upon learning of his dad’s sexuality. For cripes sake, who cares if your dad is gay or straight? Family is family, no?

(To be sure, I’m not in favor of outing nor blackmail, but I don’t think either of those factors fully explain away the “eww—teh gay” vibe from each of the trailers.)

On a lighter note, though, if I get some recommendations to see the 2007 film, I might consider adding that to my Netflix queue. On the other hand, I think I'll be staying far, far away from the 2010 remake.

Jan. 25, 2010

Review: The Book of Eli

I saw The Book of Eli with some friends the other day and, well, it wasn’t exactly my favorite movie of the year. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably not missing much.

Review: The Book of Eli from Alex Bischoff on Vimeo.

Minor spoiler warning: I give away the name of Denzel Washington’s character. I doubt it’ll affect your enjoyment of the movie (or lack thereof), but there you go.

Jan. 17, 2010

Reenacting a Scene for Star Wars Uncut

Star Wars Uncut is a project in which they’ve cut up Star Wars into 472 fifteen-second scene; from there, people can claim a scene, reenact it, and then at the end, they’ll all be stitched back together. This sounded like fun, so my friend Bryan and I claimed Scene 222 and reenacted it with a few friends.

The original scene is available on the Star Wars Uncut site and I’ve embedded our version of the scene below:

I’ve also cut together some of the behind-the-scenes footage from when we were filming the scene:

May 14, 2009

Blu-ray Discs for Home Theater Demos

My friend Mike recently asked for some suggestions on Blu-ray discs for demoing one’s home theater setup:

Could you recommend a Blu-ray movie that would make a good “demo” to show off the capabilities of a new A/V system? From the few Blu-ray movies I&Rsquo;ve seen, the encoding quality varies dramatically from disc to disc. I’m sure that some of the variation is due to lower quality or older original film stock, but even a few “new’ movies sometimes have picture quality more like DVD than Blu-ray.

For that, I’ve found The Blu-Ray Picture Quality Thread at AVSForum to be rather handy. There, commenters suggest rankings for movies and the thread maintainers aggregate those into overall rankings. More specifically, they group movies into six categories from best to worst:

  • Tier 0 — Blu (Reference): Blu-ray titles in this tier consistently offer reference level high-definition picture quality.

  • Tier 1 — Gold (Excellent): Blu-rays in this tier are demo-worthy and exhibit many of the same image qualities as titles in tier zero, albeit with a few qualifications.

  • Tier 2 — Silver (Good): The titles in this tier are representative of good picture quality that is above-average and a significant upgrade over standard definition.

  • Tier 3 — Bronze (Average): The titles in this tier are representative of average picture quality considering all Blu-rays.

  • Tier 4 — Copper (Below Average): The titles in this tier typically represent below-average picture quality that is subpar for the Blu-ray format.

  • Tier 5 — Coal (Unacceptable): The titles in this tier have severe limitations in their picture quality that is strongly underwhelming compared to the average Blu-ray.

In general, a good approach might be to look over the list, particularly the movies in the “Blu” and “Gold” tiers, and pick out a few flicks that you personally enjoy.

Just to get things started, here’re a few that I might go for:

Baraka (Tier 0 — Blu): As High-Def Digest put it in their review:

The 1080p/VC-1 transfer is framed at the original 2.20:1 aspect ratio of its 70mm source. The image is very sharp and detailed, often breathtakingly so. Even the widest of master shots exhibit a tremendous clarity throughout the frame. Facial expressions can be read on individuals within a huge crowd. Colors are vivid, yet always natural, without looking digitally manipulated. […]

The Dark Knight (Tier ‘1.25’ — Gold): Also from a review at High-Def Digest:

Don’t worry — ‘The Dark Knight’ does not disappoint. Easily Warner's flagship title for the year — if not the most highly-anticipated Blu-ray of all-time — this is a superlative 1080p/VC-1 encode that is guaranteed to be the new demo disc of choice in home theaters around the world.

The Fall (Tier ‘1.25’ — Gold): And, again, from a High-Def Digest review:

‘The Fall’ features a stunning, near-flawless 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that’s ripe with vibrant primaries, lush bronzed tones, and exquisitely inky blacks. Contrast is spot on and never buckles under the intensity of the beating sun or the low lighting of Alexandria’s hospital. Detail is remarkable and precise as well. Every cracked rock, parched patch of skin, and tattered costume reveals fine textures and minute imperfections that simply could not be achieved on DVD. […]

In addition to the scores in that AVSForum thread, there're also lists published elsewhere such as this 10 Best Movies to Show Off Your Home Theater article from PCWorld.com. On the plus-side, those types of articles often suggest specific chapters within movies, which can be handy, but on the other hand, they do eventually become dated as more movies come out.

For instance, that article offers these scene suggestions for Baraka and The Dark Knight respectively:

[Baraka]

Chapter 1: After some stunning shots of mountains, the camera zeros in on a monkey sitting in a hot spring, surrounded by snow. I found myself looking at one hair wiggling in the wind.

Chapter 4: As the camera slowly moves across terraced gardens, you feel the movement. When it glides through a tunnel, people’s voices seem to come from all around you. When it finds a large crowd of men performing a “monkey” chant, it just stuns you. […]

[The Dark Knight]

Chapter 1: After nearly a minute of logos, you get an astonishingly clear and detailed IMAX cityscape, bringing you into a weirdly funny yet shockingly violent bank robbery. Shot entirely in bright daylight, it’s crystal clear.

Chapter 20 and 21: A big chase, this one at night, shot in IMAX and showing plenty of shadow detail. It also shows a big rig turning over. And the sounds, coming from all directions, show why Dolby 5.1 was invented. At 1 hour and 16 minutes into the film, gunshots fire all around you. Duck! […]

In the end, it’s up to you. There’re plenty of good discs at the AVSForum thread and if you find a movie that you like within, say, the Blu (Tier 0) or Gold (Tier 1) groups, I think you’ll be off to a good start.

April 3, 2009

Oh, So That’s Why Some Blu-ray Discs Don’t Resume

The HD Advisor is a weekly Q-and-A column at highdefdigest.com in which readers can send in questions to which the staff tries to help answer. Anyhow, in this week’s column, they go over why some Blu-ray discs don't support play-resume:

[…] Just to clarify, the lack of a Resume Play option is tied to BD-Java […]. While all BD-Live discs are authored with BD-Java (so they do go hand-in-hand to a certain extent), it’s also possible for discs without BD-Live to share this problem. Java-enabled discs will usually start with a “Loading” icon before the main menu, and tend to take longer to load than non-Java titles. All of Fox Home Entertainment’s James Bond Blu-rays are programmed with BD-Java, even though none have BD-Live content, for example.

I agree that this is a major shortcoming of BD-Java, and I’m flabbergasted that none of the Blu-ray format developers ever gave this issue serious consideration. […]

So, that’s the scoop, apparently; I’m glad it wasn’t just me. (Up until now, I wasn’t quite sure if maybe I just hadn't configured my Blu-ray player quite right.) That aside, though, Blu-ray still offers a phenomenal picture, so I'm going to continue happily buying Blu-ray discs :).

Oct. 3, 2006

“The Matador” Is Not Showing At The Angelika

Movie listings for The Angelika — October 1st 2006

Connie and I figured we’d catch a movie on Sunday — easy enough, right? Well, I clicked through to movies.yahoo.com to scope out the listings for our area. I looked over each of the theaters but paid extra attention to the hanful of indie theaters in our area. And, once I scrolled down to The Angelika I noticed that The Matador was showing.

The Matador?”, I thought to myself. “The Pierce Brosnan flick where he plays a dysfunctional hitman?” I clicked through to the link for “Matador, The” and, yeah, it looked like my memory was about right. Just to be sure, Connie and I watched the trailer and it still looked pretty good.

We headed off to the theater, bought tickets, almost bought some bottled water — except that it was $3.65/bottle — and then headed into the theater. After a few previews, the lights dimmed and the movie began. Among the first scenes features a character watching tv (as evident by the scan lines filling the frame) of a woman being sawed in half. Um, wha? To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, the thought that entered my head at that moment was “I don’t think this movie is what we think it is.”

After a quick session of telephone game-like conferring with my film-watching companions, we agreed to discretely mosey out. Obviously, there was a collision somewhere with the “Matador” namespace. At that point, we decided to stroll through the theater and find something else. We settled on Al Franken: God Spoke (trailer) which turned out better than I thought. (All the same, if you’re thinking about seeing it, it’ll probably be just as good on your CRT at home.)

Upon getting home, I thought that some detective work was in order. I mean, what happened there? I double-checked the listings at movies.yahoo.com which, sure enough, showed The Matador. And, clicking through to the info link for the movie matched up with the IMDB page for the movie we thought we were seeing. Then, I checked on The Angelika's Now Showing page and saw that they’re not showing The Matador. They’re showing some schlock entitled Matador - Viva Pedro. For sheesh. The moral of the story? If you want to see the presumably-funny Pierce Brosnan flick, I’d recommend trying a video store — it was apparently released on DVD on July 4th.