Monday, July 13, 2009

Akbar Cinemas 2.0 leads to cuddly supernovas

Another quick lengthy update here at Just Another Movie Geek re-capping what was enjoyed over the weekend. As some of you know Akbar Cinemas upgraded late last week to a 52" rear projection HDtv. This weekend I wanted to put the unit through it's paces and ran a wide gamut of entertainment through it.

Movie #1:Stir Crazy

Growing up the parents were always fans of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Silver Streak got alot of airplay and random solo gigs from each did as well, but there was one earlier film of theirs that I had never seen. After viewing the film, I can tell why. A large amount of foul language and some nudity (ah the late 70's, my favorite decade for on screen boobies) would have already kept my parents from sharing it with me but in the end I realized it would have mostly been that this was not a film my parents would have enjoyed. And that is just sad because it was a laugh riot. It was clear that the script was just a loose guideline for filming and Gene and Richard were just allowed to ad-lib much of their performance.

Media viewing specs: DVD through upscaled DVD player connected with Component outputs. Result: Probably the best a 30 year old film with a fairly basic transfer rate could possibly look.

Movie #2: Wing Commander

I make no apologies, this film is not good. It was a huge endeavor to turn a huge video game franchise into a film franchise. it failed badly, but for it's noble effort (and the production design I really dig) I enjoy it. High upon my guilty pleasure list, it seemed like a fitting film to watch at midnight on a friday night.

Media viewing specs: Compressed avi through DVI connection on computer. Result: Looked really decent actually. The blackness of space came across fairly clear and not muddled.

Show #1: Torchwood-Children of Earth

I am not going to spoil this one at all for those who haven't seen it yet (maybe next week I will do some deep analysis) but they really hit it out of the park on this one. Deciding instead of a full season and doing a 5 part mini-series, the BBC gave us a fantastic SciFi story. Everything I have come to love about this darker spin off of Doctor Who got covered here. Humor, dark scifi, drama, pathos, and everything else that comes with hanging around Captain Jack Harkness was brought together very well.

Media viewing specs: 720p avi files through DVI connection on computer. Result: Who knew Gwen Cooper had so many freckles!

Movie #3: Sharpe's Peril

Episode 16 in a long line of action/adventure films based upon a series of novels set in the Napoleonic Wars (and beyond). 2 films ago saw what we thought would be the end of the characters film story. Ending with the defeat of Napoleon would have been appropriate but the producers decided to keep going and tell us some tales of Sharpe in India in 1817. While this and the last film had their share of good action and an excellent performance (as always) from Sean Beane, the story in these has been a bit lacking. The character is getting old and isn't bringing to the table what he always did. There is talk of doing at least one more Sharpe film and I would hope they make it the last and send him out appropriately.

Media viewing specs: Compressed avi through DVI connection on computer. Result: Source already was a bit washed out and compressing it down didn't help any. However, it looked quite good and artifacting was kept to a minimum.

Show #3: Stargate Atlantis

While I was doing some computer work and Dr. Mrs. Just Another Movie Geek wanted to play with some Lego, I threw on this scifi staple of ours as background.

Media viewing specs: Compressed avi through DVI connection on computer. Result: These episodes are a little more compressed than others and artifacts were noticeable. However, not so much that is a bother and the quality of the image was just fine.

Movie #4: Speed Racer

After we got done with Sharpe's Peril sunday evening, the Mrs. decided to go read in bed and I decided to stay up some more. I needed some more background film material that I could leave running and dive into it at any moment in between the little projects I was working on. Well, that didn't work so well as I once again got sucked into this magnificent film.

Now, (for those who haven't seen it) you might be saying: Magnificent film you say? But its only Speed Racer! How can something as simple and cheesy as Speed Racer be magnificent? All I can say is, trust me... this film is pure genius. I would even put it up on my top 5 greatest films of all time list. It is such a good film, that it has allowed me to forgive the Wachosk'is for the 2nd and 3rd Matrix films. It is that good.

Reasoning for being such a fine film:
1: It is the perfect adaptation.
When jumping mediums (ie comic book to film, stage to film, etc.) you always run a certain amount of risk that something from it's primary medium is not going to translate well. Some film makers try too hard to make it work and we are given mediocre results. Or, in an attempt to make the world more "real" certain aspects from the original source are missing or just plain don't work in the new medium. In this, Speed Racer excels. Nothing was changed from the original anime concept, all the characters and themes presented before were re-created to a delicious level. Sure most characters were over the top to begin with, but that is part of their beauty. Even the littlest of details (like how Pops Racer used to be a champion professional Greco-Roman wrestler or how SPOILER how we all know Racer X is actually Speed's older brother but the story requires us to always pretend he isn't and allow him to hide) are portrayed properly. In addition to the characters, the world created is so outlandish and colorful it exists truly in an animated realm. However, the level of attention and detail presented works on every level possible.

2: Not a plot hole in sight.
Now, if you are a regular reader you know I take plot holes fairly seriously. (see my rant about the new Star Trek for an example) I can forgive some minor plot holes but huge holes that pull me out of the movie when simple logic fails the narrative really bother me. I have yet to find fault in this films plot. Some might claim that since it is Speed Racer it has a really simple plot but the script actually has some depth to it.

3. It's a visual treat.
Films are primarily a visual medium. It's up to the director to keep it minimal, realistic or hyper realistic. Where as Star Trek went over the top with the shaky cam and forcing lights into your face at ever turn, Speed Racer went with the hyper-realistic approach and gave us such a vivid colorful world that every frame is filled with goodness and beauty. This beauty gives the viewer the desire to see the film again to soak in all of the little details and feel the love that went into its creation. (for example, a military themed racing team's sponsor is "Semper Fi-ber Dietary Supplements)

4. Casting.
Spot on. There is not a single character in the film who is out of place and does not distract. Even (actually especially) ChimChim the helper monkey.

I could continue to gush about this film, but Dr. Mrs Just Another Movie Geek has reminded me that I am a bit obsessed with it so I will leave it at that.

Media viewing specs: Blueray disc through DVI connection to computer. Result: Holy hell, its like my eyes were painted with candy fueled by the power of cuddly supernovas dipped in Sake and served by red-headed, green skinned wenches wearing lederhosen.

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