Second screen

It's not that we need a second screen, it's that we have an inadequate first screen.

If we're watching a great movie, we're engrossed, swept away. We're not even thinking about the phone in the pocket or purse. We're not wondering what's happening on Facebook or Pinterest. We're not even thinking about that.

That's the point, isn't it?

The view from space

Photo of Earth from thousands of miles away

This video struck me in a profound way.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

Only a few hundred people have been in space, but they share an experience that changed them, changed how they see the world. Maybe we need to send into space more people, from every culture, every nation, so they can bring home what they've seen, what they've experienced – not the technology, but the perspective. The overview effect.

[h/t Upworthy, via Patricia Tallman.]

Sookie, the empowered

There are two vampire phenomena happening right now in entertainment: the Twilight saga, with the popular books becoming popular movies, and the True Blood Series, with the increasingly popular books adapted into an HBO series. Both have a young female heroine who is romantically involved with a vampire. Both are set in present day America.

There the similarities end.

One is set in the Pacific northwest. One is set in the parishes outside of New Orleans. One seems intended for teens. The other very much for adults. But the real difference is in the women at their respective centers.

Carmen Siering writes in Ms. Magazine that Bella, the heroine of Twilight, fails as a feminist hero.

'The Man Who Fell to Earth' Blu-ray, as it should be

I never had the opportunity to see this film in a theatre, and the existing video versions were pretty murky when it came to the shadowy dark scenes. This movie is very unusual and requires some patience to settle into its pacing, but once you do, you're in for a ride. But with those murky scenes before, you'd get kicked right out of the story and wonder what the heck was going on.

No longer. This Blu-ray transfer is excellent. My only complaint is that the color saturation seems a bit washed out. Some of the stills in the extra features have the saturation you'd expect. But this is a minor quibble. Maybe David Bowie's orange hair would get all blown out in full saturation.

That brings me to David Bowie, who is really quite wonderful in the film. Enigmatic, androgynous yet masculine, and very other-worldly. If you're not old enough to remember Bowie, he was a star back then, and still pretty fresh off of startling the media world with his oddity. He had some very big hits, and yet you really couldn't quite peg what kind of music he was making. It was truly original.

'Violent Cop': Beat Takeshi Kitano as a Japanese Dirty Harry

Sono otoko, kyôbô ni tsuki (Japanese title)

*** mild spoilers ***

He's not ready with the witty verbal quips – just the opposite, actually – but Detective Azuma is otherwise not all that unlike Dirty Harry. He slaps teenage punks around, would rather beat up than arrest drug dealers, and doesn't hesitate to run down a cop killer.

The plot eventually becomes about Azuma's investigation of a drug syndicate and how it's controlling more than it seems. But I have to warn Dirty Harry fans: This is no Magnum Force. In some ways, the Dirty Harry films are fairy tales compared with this movie. They are also much more sharp and focused in the western cinematic tradition. Violent Cop is very Japanese in understatedness of plot.

For those who like to see other cities, other cultures, like I do, there are lots of scenes on the streets of what might be Kyoto. (Filming location info is not currently found on Wikipedia or IMDB.) Much of the story takes place during the daytime, so there's much to see. (City streets at night could be almost anywhere.)

In 'Brother', Beat Takeshi shows LA hoods Yakuza style

This movie is interesting. Very dry. Very understated, for all the violence. Beat Takeshi Kitano directed this movie, his first outside of Japan.

Beat Takeshi Kitano
(If you don't know Beat, you may still recognize his face.)

Wikipedia currently remarks:

Brother (2001), shot in Los Angeles, had Kitano as a deposed Tokyo yakuza setting up a drug empire in L.A. with the aid of a local gangster played by Omar Epps. Despite a large buzz around Kitano's first English language film, the film was met with tepid response in the US and abroad....

Between the disappointing response to Brother and Dolls [another movie he directed], Kitano became a punching bag for the press in the United States, who wondered if he had lost his ability to make a good film. Criticism was less severe in Europe and Asia though many commentators were not as lavish with their praise as they had been with previous Kitano films.

'Hancock' flies on Will Smith's super talent

Hancock probably could not be considered anything more than a halfway decent scifi/fantasy movie if it weren't for Will Smith. The concept is interesting enough, but the storyline ends up falling a bit short, even compared with your basic superhero movies. Yet with Will Smith's performance, you almost don't notice.

Without spoilers, I feel safe noting the premise of the movie: Hancock (Will Smith) is a sloppy, careless guy with superhero powers. Smith makes this guy truly compelling, though. He's tragically lonely and hates his life so much he drinks heavily just to blot out the clear perception of it all. At times you almost want to cry for him. And that's all Smith.

In fact, I'd say that Will Smith's performance is more key to this movie than Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance is to Iron Man. There's plenty of humor in the story, but Smith actually plays it straight ... which of course makes it all the funnier.

Godfather on Blu-ray: Where's the resolution?

I've been watching The Godfather on Blu-ray, and have been rather disappointed just how muddy the image is.

Credit where credit's due: the rich high-contrast nature of Gordon Willis' astounding cinematography is well captured for the most part. The shadows are as black as they were in the theatre. You can really appreciate the control of light, especially as characters emerge from darkness and disappear back into it.

But the high definition image resolution just isn't there. The details end up fuzzy. The sharpness doesn't seem up to par for a 35mm negative, that's for sure.

Other films from the period, including The Wild Bunch, haven't suffered so badly. What has The Godfather done to be treated so disrespectfully?

Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog ends today (kind of)

Have you seen it yet? This is not something to miss! Personally I love the music, but the real charm is the humor. Neil Patrick Harris is the perfect comic hero/villain.

If you've not heard of this show, it's a little ditty by Firefly and Buffy creator Joss Whedon and cohorts, created as something to do while the writer's strike stalled all production in Hollywood.

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Laura's unofficial sci-fi geek Lords of Kobol lineage DVD collection

Some items are must-haves for any science fiction fan (and aren't all geeks and geekettes to some extent sci-fi fans?). We already know that Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. Now we can celebrate not just this fabulous show in high-definition video, but those shows and movies that led to its creation (according to me -- Ron Moore may have different ideas).

Let's start at the top:

  1. Battlestar Galactica - Season One [HD DVD]

    If you've stumbled across the show broadcast in HDTV on the UHD cable channel, you know that Galactica is really something else when you can see all the detail.

    Price: $69.95



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