Saturday, June 7, 2014

Na na na na na na na na Batman! (1989 edition)

As a kid I remember watching the live action Batman (1989) and being very entertained.  It is probably because, as a kid, there wasn't much for me to think about or understand in the film.

It is a highly stylized (for 1989), almost cartoonish version of Batman, with very weak characters and plot.  Michael Keaton does fine, as a rather bored Bruce Wayne, with some pretty funny one-liners.  His portrayal of The Batman, however, is a bland, kind of lame superhero.  But you know, even a lame Batman is cool.  I think it is that suit.

The Batwing flying straight up....for no reason other than this shot.
Much of that is the fault of the writing/direction.  Burton seems to spend so much time getting some iconic shots of Batman, the Batmobile driving fast, the Batwing flying and posed in the moon, that he doesn't develop the characters at all.  They don't seem to have much common sense (making the audience not even root for them) and are generally very flat.

Aside from a couple Bruce Wayne quips, the only part that really entertained in this film was the psychotic, goofy portrayal of Joker by Jack Nicholson....sometimes.  Joker gets kind of annoying, though, when he's dancing to late 80s music with his thugs, who look totally out of place with the big boombox and lame moves.

Plotwise, for most of the movie the Joker doesn't seem to have much of a plan.  He really just wanders aimlessly, randomly killing or sparing people, with not much purpose.  Batman doesn't seem to have much urgency either, there was a scene where he basically flies in circles in the Batwing for no reason.  Much of the movie seems disjointed, and I think this was the sacrifice that Burton made in getting the right "look".

The right look is even better when you have solid depth to the characters and a great story.  Having seen how good Batman films can be in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, this one really disappoints.

Batman (1989) runs 126 minutes and is rated a [soft] PG-13.  I give it 6 ramheads out of 10.


Monday, March 3, 2014

New music from a new artist: MOTHERFOLK

Motherfolk is a brand new band who just released their first records. Great tunes:

Here was the Kickstarter video that got them their initial funding:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Budget Home Media Server Setup

[Originally Published March 23, 2013, Updated January 23, 2013]
I made one purchase on Black Friday 2012, and I didn't even leave the comfort of my own home.  I fought off the online crowds at Amazon to pick up a Roku HD for $40.  We have Amazon Prime and the Roku works great for streaming Prime video.
My Roku HD

I also, though, have a USB TV tuner for my computer, which I use with Windows Media Center to record TV shows or movies.  After it is recorded I use MCEBuddy to compress the video (which is usually a couple GB) and remove the commercials.  MCEBuddy runs in the background and works automatically after the initial setup.  Needless to say I have a decent collection of movies and TV shows in video file format.

This lead me to search for a solution to use my Roku to watch the videos I recorded earlier.  Since my tube TV does not have any HDMI connections, I can't plug my laptop directly into it.  Plus, that isn't the most convenient.

The old laptop-turned server, fits nicely under my TV
I came across a free channel for the Roku called Plex.  It works in conjunction with the free Plex Media server application that runs on your computer.  After I got it working on my main laptop, I thought it might be nice to have something running that can always be on and not have to run from my main laptop.  I decided that my wife's 6 1/2 year old laptop that was just sitting around in a drawer would be the perfect candidate.  It is slow, the power button needs excessive force from a screwdriver to use, and it was not being used by us. I stuck an extra hard drive I had that was 3 times bigger than the one she had, installed JoliOS Lubuntu (I switched from the no longer supported, Ubuntu 10.04-based Joli OS because I was having performance issues and the new Jolicloud2 interface is slow and annoys me...so far Lubuntu has been much faster and aside from one bug that I had to override, it has worked great), and set it up as a shared server on my home network.  I then installed the Ubuntu version of Plex, and got my media server up and running.  I use the free home-use version of Teamviewer if I ever need to log into the server to restart it or change some settings.

The other feature with Plex that I love, is the ability to "Publish" your server to the internet for access via Plex's website or one of their mobile/tablet apps.  I can watch my content anywhere with an internet connection, just as long as my server, router, and home network are all online and functioning properly.

Finally to make this all seamless, without the manual transfer of files from my DVR setup on my laptop, to my server, I use SyncBackFree to sync my files over. (MCEBuddy has a save to server option, but I couldn't get it work reliably).

Someday I hope to build a media server that has the DVR functionality built into it, but my Tuner only has drivers for Windows and I'm fine with my current setup for the time being. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Both sides of the war in Vietnam

Many war movies stylize war, glorify it, or soften it.  We Were Soldiers (2002), thankfully, isn't this type of film.  Vietnam was a brutal war, and this movie really gives us a small glimpse of that brutality.

The film follows Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, and his cavalry in the Battle of Ia Drang.  The US really wasn't prepared for the war, especially since the Vietnamese were fighting on their own rugged home turf, with years and years of experience.  Ia Drang was the first major battle for the Americans in the war and really set the stage for the rest of the war.  The US was actually letting family members know about their deceased via telegram at first, that's how unprepared they were for this very deadly war.

While the film primarily follows Moore and the US, occasionally it shows opposing Vietnamese soldiers, writing in a journal or mourning their losses.  This technique further depicts the brutality of the war. People are on both sides, and no matter what side they are on, they really do believe they are fighting for the right side.  People fighting against people.

I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of this adaptation, but I do know that it accomplishes its goal and making war realistic for the viewer.  It really makes you appreciate what you have, and the many people who died defending it.  Thank a veteran and thank God.

We Were Soldiers runs 138 minutes and is rated R.  This film is not family friendly, it is quite violent with some language.  I give it 8 ramheads out of 10.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Jimmy's Movie Preview and CONTEST: Copperhead

I got an email last week asking if I would cover another book-to-film adaption, in exchange for a book and a poster.  I did a similar thing for Life of Pi.  Before committing to it, I looked into the film, and once again, I'd be interested in seeing it, so I have no problem previewing it.

This time, the movie is a Civil War film called Copperhead.  Based on the novella "The Copperhead" by Harold Frederic and actual events during the Civil War, the film is about a man who lives in the Union and hates war just as much as he hates slavery.  Here is the official synopsis:
Inspired by actual events and based on the extraordinary novel by Harold Frederic, which the great American critic Edmund Wilson praised as a brave and singular book that “differs fundamentally from any other Civil War work,” Copperhead is the story of Abner Beech, a righteous farmer of Upstate New York, who defies his neighbors and his government in the contentious autumn of 1862. Abner despises slavery – but just as passionately opposes the war that is waging in the name of “union” hundreds of miles away because he believes the Constitution of the United States is being trampled. Abner is neither a Yankee nor a Rebel. He is what is known as a Copperhead.
The film is directed by the same guy who directed Gods and Generals and Gettysburg, Ron Maxwell, so the film is poised to be a great wartime film.

Copperhead is limited availability, so if you really want to see it, make sure to click the link to demand it come to your city.

Here are some links to the website, the trailer, and a countdown to when the film comes out:


CONTEST 

Finally, since this is a sponsored post, you have a chance to win the book, a movie poster and some movie cash.  Just comment on this post with your favorite film that features war or combat.  The winner will be picked by random from commenters and will be contacted for their name and address.  The contest ends on June 20 and the winner will need to give me their information by June 23 at 11:59pm.

Note: the countdown above is for the movie, not the giveaway.  The giveaway ends on June 20.

Good luck!