Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LOST is 10 years old...and I remember it like it was yesterday

I've read a bunch of articles about LOST, but The Verge posted a great one about how with all its flaws and craziness, the thing that keeps you watching is the characters and their relationships.  I'll buy that.

Maybe a binge of LOST is in order....

Also, what are your thoughts on the show?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Raised by Penguins? Bat nipples? George Clooney?

I wasn't fan of its predecessor, but this sequel gets a couple of things right where Batman failed.  It certainly isn't a great film, and I'm rather impressed these films made enough money that they made four of them.  In any case, I think Batman Returns may be the best film in this series.

First things first, Tim Burton really toned down the "iconic shots" in this film and majorly increased the plot (i.e. it had a plot this time).  There are 2.5 villains: the Penguin...a monster played by Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken plays himself (actually he plays Max Shreck, a power monger business man), and waffling Catwoman...played with a lot of crazy by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Overall, I liked this one better than the first one, but the whole raised by penguins thing still bothers me. 7 ramheads out of 10.


The 3rd film, Batman Forever, has Val Kilmer, and he plays a weird, but not terrible Batman.  This has a very cartoon or video game feel, with a very enclosed world.  There are a handful of villains, all of them pretty boring.  3 ramheads out of 10.


The 4th film, Batman and Robin, is bad.  George Clooney is a terrible Batman.  He has no presence on the screen at all.  You don't care about him or even realize he's there most of the time.  This film has the worst, cheapest, feel to it.  There are a new handful of villains, including a pretty lame Bane. The only this that is interesting is the Batgirl story line, played strongly by Alicia Silverstone. 2 ramheads out of 10.

Interestingly, I liked the 2nd one best, but it is less memorable than the first one and the last one.  The 3rd is totally forgettable and also bad.

Here ends my blast from the past to the Batman films of my childhood.

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.