Wednesday, January 30, 2008

DVD REVIEW: "This isn't really even about Donkey Kong anymore."

It is so exciting to find a film that comes out of nowhere and really floors you. I watched "Once" this year and fell it love with it, not only because it is a great film, but, also, because I did not know much about it. So we step back a few days ago when I came across a clip from the documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Dollars." The clip showed a man with a huge-sick mane of hair discussing the difficulties of playing Donkey Kong. I watched the clip and was bemused by its odd look at this odd person... and then amused as it continued...that led me to Netflix the film.

Skip to last evening when I somehow convinced Cara to sit with me and watch it last What an experience.

Here we have Steve Weibe. Steve is a "almost made it" kind of guy. He pitched in high school - but got injured before playing in the playoffs. He was an engineer with Boeing, started a family, bought a house... and got laid off on the very same day. Steve has so many musical talents (piano, drums, writing songs), so many ambitions to succeed... he even passionately plays Donkey Kong.

Steve is not a loser... but someone who continually wants to win. Steve focuses his all in every area he has interest and that applies to Donkey Kong too. Steve knew the top score reached on Donkey Kong was held by Billy Mitchell who achieved this back in 1981. Steve beats that score, proves it by sending on a tape of his game... and then the world turns upside down!

Billy Mitchell has been gaming his whole life and he stands as the authority on many games - including Donkey Kong. Billy is a winner... his business thrives - he is loved and admired by the gaming community - his wife has some amazingly fake boobs... and he is known as the best gamer in the world.

But Billy is not one to play too nice... and Steve Weibe is just another score to take down.

I never dreamed that a film about two men trying to best one another's score on an arcade game could ever have made for an interesting film... but "The King of Kong" is nothing but superb!! I was completely engaged with Steve and his drive to win - Cara and I vocalized our passion for his success throughout the film - hoping he could take down the evil Billy Mitchell!!!

The film is also filled with sad men who hold on so dearly to this gaming world... that their stories often move past shocking hilarity and move into absolute empathy. Who has not wanted to be the best at something? Who has not wanted to take down the ultra cocky show off?

Steve Weibe is an average guy - the true underdog... whom you cannot help but love... and Billy Mitchell, as crazy as it may seem, breezes through the film not ever realizing how petty and awful he comes across. His bravura and moment stealing has no ends... when it should be Steve's time to shine, Billy steps in and grabs the spot light.

It is truly amazing how the film connects - pumps - and inspires the viewer to cheer for Steve.

The aesthetics of the film are spot on - not only is it simply shot, there is never any showy animation or annoying narration. The film also includes Joe Esposito's immortal classic "You're the Best!" that was prominently featured in the mind blowing Karate Kid tournament montage. The use in this film... simply rocks!!!

Honestly, it is amazing some of the moments that the crew catches - and I have checked the extras and no that they are real! Everyone does an amazing job... I truly loved the film... rent it immediately!!

"The King of Kong: A Fistful of Dollars" : A-


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Charisma as Natural as Gravity" by Christopher Nolan

Best known for his haunting, Oscar-nominated performance as Ennis Del Mar, one of the gay cowboys in 2005 ' s "Brokeback Mountain," Ledger was a massive young talent on the cusp of greatness when he died last week in New York. The native Australian, who is survived by his 2-year-old daughter, Matilda, had recently finished work on this summer's "Batman" sequel, "The Dark Knight," in which he plays a villain, the Joker. Christopher Nolan, the film's director, shared these memories:

One night, as I'm standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for "The Dark Knight," a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I'd fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you'd asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn't know. That's real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That's what Heath had.

Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren't many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.

One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they'd really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It's tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there's plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they'd given him.

Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He'd brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he'd made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I've never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn't take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.

When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we'd have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we'd done with all that he'd given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.

Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it's Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can't help but smile.

This was printed in Newsweek - written by Christopher Nolan.


Friday, January 25, 2008

BLU-RAY DVD REVIEW: "Lost" Season 3 Blu-Ray Disc 3

Last night I got a chance to listen to the commentary for "Expose," episode 3:14 of "Lost." Written by two new additions to the show, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the episode stands out for fans for several reasons. First, the story brings back several dead characters we all miss - Boone, Shannon and Dr. Arzt. Second, the episode also stars Billy Dee Williams!! And finally, this is the culminating moment in the story of Nikki and Paulo - the most hated chracters on lost.

Nikki and Paulo were probably a bad idea from the start. Adding new characters that no one watching the show would know and no one on the show would remember (the gag of "Who the hell is Nikki" was a Sawyer classic line) seems like a recipe for disaster. And truly, a bunch of fans cried foul at their presence. Not me though - I actually did not mind the greedy little characters - and I loved this episode.

Um... ok. As I was saying - this episode rocks. The image above is from the opening of the episode where we find Nikki dancing in a club and after removing some items... um... she takes on Billy Dee Williams in a gunfight!! Actually, she is an actress on the show "Expose," a series that the writers apparently have broken 20 episodes of... odd. Anyway, the episode starts off well and keeps moving with some really interesting bits.

Uh... ok. So the episode shows several moments from the seasons past - the crash on the beach - Jack's "Live together Die alone" speech... all from the perspective of Nikki and Paulo. As a viewer, it was a ball to relive these moments - and it was also fun to watch these two new characters allow their greed to run their lives... to the point where they barely acknowledge life on the island! The episode is more like a wild "Twilight Zone" ep, with some really fun twists and a story structure that can be truly be admired. Well written stuff.

Um... uh... jeez... this review is derailing. Anyway, I feel, "Expose" is a great moment in Season 3 and I was sad to see Nikki... and Paulo go. But since they had to go - what an inventive fun way to do it. The rest of the disc has some amazing episodes, including "The Man from Tallahassee." The moment we find out how Locke became a cripple... whoa!

"Lost" Season 3 Blu-Ray Disc 3: A-

Nikki is hot.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Here we go Bulldogs here we go!

Last night brought some major wedding planning done while watching the Drake Bulldogs take on the Creighton Jays. Ceremony verses aside - this was a fantastic game!!

Being a graduate of the University of Iowa, I am a huge Hawkeye fan. The Big Ten Network got up and running this year and our cable company made the odd decision to not buy in - thus, we have been screwed out of all of the Hawks basketball games.

Since Cara is a huge basketball fan... and I do anything she asks... and Drake games were cheap and close - we have been attending a few of the Bulldogs games. The shocker is, the Bulldogs are having one helluva season.

They stand on the top of the Missouri Valley Conference and last night they played Creighton to keep their #1 position. The game, held in Omaha, saw a crowd of 17,000 cheering on the Jays (the Knapp center only holds about 7,000). Things moved quickly in the opening, both teams traded 3-pointers with the Jays sinking 8 of 11 early on (that is 24 of their 30 points at half!). The second half saw the lead change a few times and a final bucket that tied things to send it into over time. Drake pulled ahead and took the win.

Drake is now ranked #22 in the nation and if they keep playing the way they are, should make a huge impact in the NCAA tournament. We will have to see come March!

Atta boys!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Joker is dead...

Wow. Sometimes the world sucker punches you. What a tragedy. Harry Knowles wrote this - it echoes my words without much elegance but with the emotion.

"Harry here... Heath Ledger was found dead in a Manhattan Apartment today around 2pm according to the NYPD and CNN. At this point - my take on this is... Please don't fucking be true.

I first met Heath Ledger 8 years ago on the set of A KNIGHT'S TALE - he was impossibly young, handsome and charming. He went on to become one of our absolutely most talented and promising actors.

Right now - he's got the part of THE JOKER in THE DARK KNIGHT. We know filming is complete, but all the post - we have no idea how much of that has been finished. This news is horrifying. Absolutely fucking miserable.

What happens now to Terry Gilliam's THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS - which was filming is completely unknown. I don't know what his part was in that - or how vital he was too the film - but GOD FUCKING DAMMIT. I'm so pissed about this.

He was married to Michelle WIlliams and they had a 2 year old daughter. I hate this. Hate this. I can't even imagine what we're going to miss. Heath wasn't just talented, but he seemed incredibly grounded and was working with some of the most talented people in film.

I'm so pissed about this. Not at Heath - but at the cruel fucking fate of the world that would take an actor at his absolute prime - right when he was about to explode with what seems like an astonishing performance as the Joker. This is just cruel. Cruel to his family, friends and absolutely brutal to all of us that were so looking forward to spending years and years watching him entertain, touch and thrill us in theaters.

Fuck - this world sucks some days."


FILM REVIEW: "I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people. "

"Punch-Drunk Love" was a blast of emotionally raw images painted in pinks and blues with Adam Sandler mixing the delivery - I loved it and it was my favorite film of 2002. It was the last film from Paul Thomas Anderson - that uber flashy director prone to use f-bombs to lace his scenes and characters who linger on total depression and insanity. So when word emerged that Daniel Day Lewis and Anderson were teaming for a film - my interest was... well... HUUUUUUUUGE!!!!

Thus arrives "There Will Be Blood." For a write up and plot summary check here. Critics have been hailing the film as a groundbreaking instant classic - and of course I loved it as well.

Lewis does own the role of Daniel Plainview and dominates the film with his presence. Honestly, no one in the film stands a chance when this guy gets to chewing on the scenery... and sometimes that can be slightly detrimental... really though, this is nit-picking. Plainview is a fascinating man to watch morph into a frightening and ghastly monster, and Lewis does deserve every accolade he is getting.

Anderson's direction is again - brilliant. He moves the camera in unexpected and exciting ways, creates an astounding authenticity with the material and the time, cuts the film in a rhythmic form - yet allows important moments to play out completely... and finally, he hired Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead to do a score that... that... blows my mind. The symbiosis of image and music digs into my psyche in a way I did not expect - Greenwood deserves an Oscar (whatever that means)!!

Much has been made of the ending - critics alluding to the story failing the film - also that Lewis' performance derails... I disagree... with trepidation. I moved with the end of the film and found the final beats to be totally satisfying. The moments that did make me hiccup a bit were few - but present - Paul Dano's performance delivered 95% of the time... Lewis was allowed a little too much freedom in the final edit... and the film definitely is a downer.

But I like that.

Plainview's deterioration is fascinating to watch. Several of the scenes with his son, H.W. (played by youngster Dillon Freasier who impressed the hell out of me), really shocked me. Plainview is a real man who opens up to almost no one... but he cannot deny his ability to use everyone... even his son! The big trailer scene (the name of the post above) with his "brother" is a rare moment of honesty from the character and it is frightening to see what is really under the oil drenched demon.

In the end, "There Will Be Blood" does excite my film viewing mind. The images are startling and beautiful - Plainview and Lewis' portrayal is astoundingly interesting - Anderson's direction continues to blow my mind... and overall, the film truly is a disturbing masterpiece.

Dig it!

"There Will Be Blood" : A


Oscar read my mind!

The Oscar nominations were just announced and things went absolutely spendidly! In fact, the 5 films nominated are essentially the top 5 films that I loved this year.

Here is the list with notes;

BEST PICTURE - perfect group
"Michael Clayton"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE - I did not see "Eastern" and Depp is surprising
George Clooney for "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp for "Sweeney Todd"
Tommy Lee Jones for "In the Valley of Elah "
Viggo Mortensen for "Eastern Promises"

Cate Blanchett for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie for "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose"
Laura Linney for "The Savages"
Ellen Page for "Juno"

DIRECTING - Poor Joe Wright... snubbed. PTA's first nomination!!!!
Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly"
Jason Reitman for "Juno"
Tony Gilroy for "Michael Clayton"
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen for "No Country For Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood"

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Affleck finally gets deserved love!!!
Casey Affleck for "The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem for "No Country For Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman for "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook for "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson for "Michael Clayton"

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - I missed "Gone Baby Gone"
Cate Blanchett for "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee for "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan for "Atonement"
Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton for "Michael Clayton"

"Surf's Up"

SCREENPLAY (Adapted) - PTA and Coen!!!
Christopher Hampton for "Atonement"
Sarah Polley for "Away from Her"
Ronald Harwood for "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly"
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen for "No Country For Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood"

SCREENPLAY (Original) Cody or Gilroy!
Diablo Cody for "Juno"
Nancy Oliver for "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tony Gilroy for "Michael Clayton"
Brad Bird for "Ratatouille"
Tamara Jenkins for "The Savages"

ART DIRECTION - "Blood" rules
"American Gangster"
"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd"
"There Will Be Blood"

CINEMATOGRAPHY - wow... WOW... all are amazing!
"The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

COSTUME DESIGN - don't care
"Across the Universe"
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
"La Vie En Rose"
"Sweeney Todd"

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - Moore is there but I didn't see it
"No End in Sight"
"Operation Homecoming"
"Taxi to the Dark Side"

"La Corona"
"Salim Baba"
"Sari's Mother"

FILM EDITING - "No Country" or "Blood" - the rest are chumps
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
"Into the Wild"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

"The Counterfeiters"

"La Vie En Rose"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

MUSIC (SCORE) - Johnny Greenwood was robbed!!! "Blood" has the best score of the year - "Atonement" was fine
Marco Beltrami for "3:10 to Yuma"
Dario Marianelli for "Atonement"
Alberto Iglesias for "The Kite Runner"
James Newton Howard for "Michael Clayton"
Michael Giacchino for "Ratatouille"

MUSIC (SONG) - Give out some "Once" love!!!
Falling Slowly from "Once"
Raise It Up from "August Rush"
Happy Working Song from "Enchanted"
So Close from "Enchanted"
That's How You Know from "Enchanted"

"I Met the Walrus"
"Madame Tutli-Putli"
"Even Pigeons Go To Heaven"
"My Love"
"Peter and the Wolf"

"At Night"
"The Substitute"
"The Mozart of Pickpockets"
"Tanghi Argentini"
"The Tonto Woman"

SOUND EDITING - "No Country" or "Blood" the rest are megachumps
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

SOUND MIXING Not sure why "Blood" is not here - go "No Country"
"3:10 to Yuma"
"The Bourne Ultimatum"
"No Country for Old Men"

"The Golden Compass"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End"

Fantastic list - wish Greenwood would have been nominated... and maybe more love for "Once" - but overall... YEAAAAAHHH!!!!


Monday, January 21, 2008

Road to rerfection goes through Eli

Sunday brought the final playoff games before the grand Super Bowl - the NFC and AFC championships!! The Patriots came away with a win against the San Diego Chargers - in fact, it was Brady's first and only bad performance of the year. Not only did he throw 3 interceptions but his passes that he did complete were consistently off the mark. It was a hard game to watch.

The difference maker was the defense for the Patriots. I was shocked to see the D step up and completely keep the Chargers from scoring a single touchdown! They should be very proud of their performance.

At a stunning 18-0, the Patriots now only have one more team to play before their unbelievable season comes to a perfect end.

And the team they will be playing is the New York Giants!! What a fantastic game! I really expected the Packers to roll over the Giants (a team that I have really looked down upon this entire season). Eli Manning always came across to me as completely unbalanced and frankly, not prepared to lead a team. Now, after winning 3 playoff games in a row, the Super Bowl will have a Manning in it... just not the one we expected!

Dan said something interesting last night, he had heard that for some players - their careers came together in a single moment - one game that set them in a completely different, vastly more competitive play mode... Dan said, the game that did this for Eli was the Patriots game.

These teams met in the final game of the season for both - and it was brilliant! Both teams battled it out like they were not locked into the playoffs - both should be very proud of making it into the Super Bowl. I can't think of a better end to this season!

Sunday was also the season finale of The Amazing Race! I have a group of friends who came together to play a fantasy version of the game, picking a team at the start to follow. My team, Nate and Jen, went out last week - bitching their way to a loss.

Last night's winners was TK and Rachel - Dan's team. He should be happy - bastard!

Off to see "There Will Be Blood" today - yummy,


Friday, January 18, 2008

Weekend plans

As far as weekend plans go, this weekend is not that full. One thing I am looking forward to the most is the arrival of Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood."

I have been dodging reviews - comments - ads - evreything... trying to keep this experience fresh (I have failed on quite a few things... damnit - I know too much!). The movie opened for the world on Christmas day... and now it finally hits Des Moines.

Whining aside, I am thrilled to finally have a chance to see it.

Next up is the big NFL playoff games that are happening this weekend. The early game is the one I am looking forward to; The Patriots welcome the trash talking Chargers... expect a lot of points and some amazing play. I am full on rooting for Brady and Co. The second game is the Pack welcoming the ever lucky Giants... Pack should role with ease.

I am a little sad that this is the end of the NFL season - but man, the games have been fantastic!!!

Finally, Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. day and I - odd as it may seem, have the day off. I grew up in Des Moines and spent some of the best days of my life living on 47th street near Beaverdale - and I attended MLK Elementary. There was this huge mural of King in the entryway of the school and once a year we would go and sit in front of it and hear of King's passionate fight to end segregation and racism throughout the world.

I don't know what it is - but having a day put aside for him... giving me a day off from work... somehow lessens this man's impact to me. I guess it has something to do with the work day and knowing I will be sleeping in and laying around... maybe I will take a moment and really reflect on the man and his dream.

Hopefully I will.

A good person would...


Thursday, January 17, 2008

DVD REVIEW: “When first I saw her - she was regarded as unfinished.”

I have always regarded Terrence Malick's work as a taste that was far beyond mine. "Badlands" intrigued me with it's disturbing tale, yet lost me in some of it's form choices. "The Thin Red Line" really sent me spinning, unable to connect with anyone in the film and I was bothered with how the film would drift moment to moment, apparently making bold and human defining statements.

So when Malick set forth to make "The New World," my interest was not very high. Colin Farrell stuck in a story that seemed far beyond any place I could see him... a tale that has been told (the trailers made the film look exactly like "Dances With Wolves")... and a director I did not trust. I really only had a superficial desire to see the film.

Recently, I have been listening to a podcast called Watching the Directors, a show that examines a director's full body of work. The show begs for listener interaction and I have often added my opinions throughout. During the Christmas break the show looked at Terrence Malick and I begin to hesitate. The hosts, of course, found his work mesmerizing, speaking of his direction as naturalistic... poetic... perfected.

I conceded and queued his other two films; "Days of Heaven" and "The New World."

As "The New World" began, I immediately had an itch to run away... to react just as I had to his other two films. The narrative is general at best - characters are not introduced... more like brushed up against... edits of nature - water - the sun come and go, cross cut with material to what seems like zero effect.

I stopped the film and walked away... Cara came home and I complained about the same things I had before... "Artsy fartsy... over-done... faking poetry...."

Cara told me to send it back to Netflix... unfinished. I, of course, hate that. So with the snow storm today, I got my second chance to finish the film - thankfully.

As I watched, I began to feel a flow with the film. The natural sounds... the colors of the sky... the look of a face... I started to breathe with it. So I began to jot down thoughts;

Beautiful shots
Abstract editing
Farrell looks confused
Pocahontas (never named) excels
I can’t imagine the shoot - totally random images - film found in editing
Shot of moon - shot of tree.. Randomly added
Birds flying - attack on fort broken into pieces
Colors of white - drab - ugly.. Indians very colorful
Narration is simply thoughts being spoken.
Something with water as well - everything is touching it
I do like the relationship Smith has with Pocahontas - touching feeling - discovery… finding a human for the first time.. Feeling all for the first time…
It must have been insanity to shoot this film… how would a crew work on this?
As woman (no name) becomes more like an English woman… their relationship changes to kissing and more conventional images.
“When first I saw her - she was regarded as unfinished.”

And then - I couldn't put anything else down... the film wrapped around me... I was experiencing the world that Malick was delivering similar to the way his characters experienced the world that they inhabited. For a moment, I did breathe with the film - I could feel a flow... a rhythm.

Now, here I am, typing away my thoughts about the picture... waiting to type a letter grade on it, securing it's place in the list in my mind. I loved it - right? At this moment... my senses are back to reality... I was not completely over taken... and I am left with an experience that at one point reached perfection... yet still could not get my film drenched mind to fully open up.

I cannot see how she can be fully formed... without becoming false or plastic... and that is exactly what Terrence Malick fears. She must live free... or it means nothing.

"The New World" : B+

There... I feel better,


"Zodiac" Commentary #1

It snowed all night last night and I am home today hiding out from the ugly drive to Ames. With that in mind, you might get a few posts today since I will have time to finish up viewing the "Zodiac" Director's Cut HD-DVD.

As I mentioned earlier, I watched all of the extras on disc 2 and got completely creeped out by the material. Last night, I watched the film with David Fincher's commentary, and again, creeped myself out.

Most of us know and love David Fincher's work; "Se7en" blew all of our minds... "Fight Club" instantly declared a place within film history... and "Panic Room" made Jodie Foster look completely hot. Honestly, Fincher hits far more than he misses (though Greg and I could not get through "The Game") and he is a fascinating artist who loves to discuss the details of his craft.

The commentary for "Zodiac" is a good one - not the best - but very good. Fincher covers a lot of ground about how he was inspired to make the film. He grew up in the San Francisco area and in his youth the Zodiac killer took hold of the area and his imagination. Fincher mentions several locations that he picked for the film that are directly related to him personally - this fact shocked me because of his exacting nature for the details of reality according to the story!

Fincher also goes in depth on his method of shooting several takes (admitting he drove Jake Gyllenhaal nuts), points out some astonishing special effects work (erasing hair off of the hand of the actor who did Gyllenhaal's hand close ups) and some truly astonishing decisions to not use special effects (in the end of the film a title card shows the year as 1983 - yet a calendar on screen shows 1980... Fincher states he has seen old calendars in shops and did not feel the mistake needed fixing!!). Fincher also details his decisions to shoot certain scenes in certain ways - this is a fantastic insight into his method as a director and it demonstrates how one man's vision for specific elements can result in a large amount of work.

For example, the opening tracking shot of the film shows a camera shooting out of the window of a car as it passes houses in the Vallejo area... Fincher had to have the image inside the car be perfectly balanced and have the image outside of the car be perfectly balanced... this entailed building a track for the car and making the car into a rail car! The simple camera mounts would not cut it... he had to have that odd fluid movement to create a discomfort in the perfect stillness of the image.


Finally, one of the more interesting elements of the commentary concerns Fincher's choice to lean towards Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac killer. Don Cheney (pictured above) was a friend of Allen's who came forward to the police to discuss some of the odd things he had heard and experienced with Allen. Cheney's story is truly unbelievable (Allen explained that he liked to kill couples and called himself the Zodiac - a full year before the Zodiac killer ever sent a letter!!!!) and Fincher was not sure about it (as we all are). So he decided to meet Cheney.

David Fincher, a movie director, someone who tells stories for a living... personally inserted his life into the real life tale he was telling. He met with Cheney and came away with the belief that this man was not a man who told lies or really was capable of doing so. He believed his story...


Might have time to watch the 2nd commentary later.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Yesterday was Macworld 2008 and ol' Steve Jobs showed off some new products - some flashy additions to products... and some groundbreaking steps towards ending the HD wars all together.

More on that in a bit.

First, we have the Macbook Air - Apple's nosedive into the "who can make the smallest laptop!" The ads that Jobs premiered show a vanilla envelope being opened and the Macbook Air being pulled out of it. Kind of cool.

Very small - back lit keys - bluetooth 802.11n - interesting touch pad that acts like the iPhone with pinching... and lacking an optical disc drive. That's right - no cd/dvd drive on this puppy. It has this odd "remote disc" function that allows you to use any neighboring drive as your own... even a PC's.

Next, we have a nice update for our iPhones. I have always had maps on it - but now, thankfully, the phone acts as a GPS device and allows me know exactly where I am and calculate a map to my destination. Not unbelievable but a cool function that did not exist.

Also, the main screen is now freed up to contain whatever buttons the user wishes. I have placed buttons to main web pages that I visit daily. I also can now move lesser buttons off the main screen (by by stocks!).

Finally - I can SMS several people at once now... expect a lot more general texts from yours truly!

To round out the day (well, I can't remember the order of arrival) we have the announcement that Apple is getting into the movie rental business. Not a revelation by any means... but the delivery quality does take a leap forward in changing my mind in the timeline of the arrival of a hard media-less society.

Let me explain.

HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray has been an ongoing battle that only as of late has given any notion that a decision is near. Toshiba and Sony have been declaring their own media as the one solution for HD content... but in the back of everyone's mind is that there will come a time when buying a disc will simply waste time and space. That time might have arrived.

Steve Jobs proclaims he can now deliver HD quality (albeit 720p) video via download on a broadband speed line... in 30 seconds. You click download - 30 seconds later the video plays - full HD resolution on your TV set. Of course, you have to buy his Apple TV to get it to the TV - and his rental program is set up on a movie by movie basis (come on!!! Netflix is huuuuge!!!)... yet, there is no denying the strength in having full quality programing for your viewing in 30 seconds!

I am fully intrigued - I don't feel my discs are going anywhere in the next few years... but there will be a time where they will be forgotten (Apple has a computer WITHOUT A DRIVE?!?!??!) - and Mr. Jobs is definitely announcing where the world can get started.

Finally, I finished disc 2 of "Lost" Season 3 last night. A throwaway episode where Jack's tatoos are finally discussed (hot Asian girl who is naughty tatooed "Stranger in a strange land" on him - ugh) and Hurley discovers a VW bus (with Ben's dead father in it!!! Whoa!). The Hurley ep was truly moving and a treasure of the season. Hope disc 3 is on the way.

"Lost" Season 3 Blu-Ray Disc 2: B+


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Lost" Season 3 Blu-Ray Disc 2

Continuing the drive to finish off "Lost" Season 3 before the start of season 4, last night I blew threw 3 episodes on the disc, including a commentary with Carlton Cuse - Evangeline Lilly and Josh Holloway. It was a far better listen than the previous commentary because of a fascinating breakdown of an actor's method of preparing to do a script. Evangeline walks the viewer through her pre-game warm up, talking about taking notes and how she uses the day of to memorize lines to keep things fresh. Cuse doesn't do much to inform but leads the conversation well.

The episodes are a major step up from the previous five. We have Juliet's back story - a marriage for Kate (to "Firefly"s Nathan Fillion) - and Desmond's sad sad flash sideways (or whatever that was). Some of the best of the season.

"Zodiac" is still running through my head - during my lunch break I took some time and found a site all about the murders and potential suspects. The site also has high quality scans of each Zodiac letter sent... IT-IS-CREEPY.

Hope I don't get Robert Graysmith crazy on Cara... jeez.


Monday, January 14, 2008

HD-DVD REVIEW: "I am the Zodiac - Gooooood Buhye!"

Friday night Cara and I went out to dinner at Felix & Oscars, trying out the place as a potential rehearsal dinner location. Sadly, I felt the Chicago deep dish pizza was a mess - and the decor was completely lifeless. Afterwards, we stopped by Best Buy and I picked up David Fincher's "Zodiac" Director's Cut on HD-DVD.

I had loved the film in the theater and was sad to see the extras-free initial release, so I was thrilled to see a new version loaded with goodies. There is a detailed and absolutely revealing look at the process of Fincher and the making of the movie. You get a look into the Digital Domain graphics work they did with the film ans some truly surprising dailies of blue screen work.

The second half of disc 2 delves into the murders themselves - taking a look at each at a time. The truly horrifying moment on the disc is when Bryan Hartnell recounts the attack of the Zodiac at Lake Berryessa where his girlfriend Cecelia Shepard died from her wounds. The calm retelling of the event is nerve racking... and relating it to the moment in the film... well, I have not slept well since viewing.

These extras are absolutely worth the price to purchase and the film will definitely not disappoint.

"Zodiac" Director's Cut HD-DVD : A

The rest of the weekend was all about football. Sunday delivered two major upsets. I have to admit, I did not see San Diego beating out the Colts! Manning played a well rounded game - the Charges had several penalties and injuries, losing LT and Rivers in the 3rd quarter!! Yet, they came out on top.

I cringed at the final pass to Dallas Clark to lose the game at the end... it kind of puts a cap on the Peyton adds we have seen all year with him searching for a receiver and looking to his child self for the answer... "Clark." How sad.

The Giants caught the Cowboys on their 3rd horrible week and ruined their chances to see the Superbowl. Eli Manning played a strong game, but again, it was the Cowboys game to lose.

Saturday was far better with the Packers showing some major poise playing the Seahawks. They went down 14 early and came back to completely control the game! The Packers will play in the Superbowl.

The Patriots are the team I have been following all year and I did have fears that they Jags might be able to pull off the upset. The Pats defense really could not stop Garrard from moving the ball down the field - they actually only held them to a field goal once! Thankfully, the Pats offense never faltered. Moss was covered, but the running game picked up the slack. What a fantastically well rounded offense that is completely able to adjust to every defense they meet!

The Pats will take on the Chargers and again - will hopefully prevail. If the offense doesn't falter - the Chargers offense will not be able to keep up.

Great games - good weekend.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

BLU-RAY DVD REVIEW: "Lost" Season 3 Blu-Ray Disc 1

Last night I finished the first disc of "Lost" Season 3 on Blu-Ray and things ended with the inexplicable and useless death of Mr. Eko.

The disc itself is a revelation; the Blu-Ray 1080p images from the show are simply stunning! Probably the best HD disc I have seen on my set. You see every pore - every drop of sweat on the actors face... and the island pops with greens and blues. The menus are very similar to earlier seasons except I get a nice introduction from Damom Lindelof and Carlton Cuse talking about how cool the Blu-Ray version of "Lost" really is.

There is 5 episodes on the disc and only one commentary - a track with Lindelof and Elizabeth Mitchell who plays Juliet on the series. The commentary is definitely not one of "Lost's" best.

After re-viewing the first 5 episodes I do feel a tad bored. Jack, Kate and Sawyer are locked away with the others, which is far more fascinating than life back at the beach where we find Locke having to save Eko - only to have him die the very next episode. It is obvious the producers wanted to let the actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje go... but the character's end (even his last words!) is a complete let down.

Thankfully, the show really begins to fly after this ep.

"Lost" Season 3 Disc 1: B

Cara and I fired up "Bringing Up Baby" as we were going to bed last night - it is a continuation of our Katherine Hepburn movie marathon and our second with Cary Grant as the love interest! I saw the film back in college and enjoyed it. Oddly, though, the film really began to drag for me last night. It runs two solid hours and really could have used some major trimming.

I did find myself laughing very loudly at the covering of the torn dress scene. The timing of Hepburn and Grant sparkles in that bit.

"Bringing Up Baby": B

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

FILM REVIEW: "If you're in - I'm still in - Juno"

She is beautiful to look at - her black hair gracefully falling around her face - her lips full of pout and ready to deliver a barrage of joyfully irreverent literation on the desire to not think about junk smelling like pie - her stomach, like her belly button... protruding!

Juno is a beautifully pregnant 16 year old and a girl that I wish I could hang around with... for a small amount of time... just before she realizes my inability to keep up with her quick wit. To have the chance to talk with a young girl, taking on some major life changing challenges, who doesn't have to fake any form of happiness or frustration - she simply is Juno.

The film "Juno" is directed by Jason Reitman whose previous picture "Thank You for Smoking" had moments of interest for me but mostly felt distant and not fully formed as a film. "Juno," on the other hand, is a legend in it's own time - a huge leap forward for Reitman and a career defining beginning for it's writer Diablo Cody (who attended the University of Iowa as I did). The script must have warmed the hands of each reader as they plowed through Cody's exceptional and exciting dialog - and left them in shock as a first time screenwriter creates characters who should, as past quirky films have proved, act more like plastic dolls than truly fleshed out humans. Yet, human they are.... quirk and all.

"Juno" is simply fantastic, a pure joy to watch. I went with Cara, my younger brother, and my mother - all of us came out of the film thrilled and giddy with laughter. The film is worthy of all of the praise and awards talk it is receiving. I am already planning to re-visit Juno's world - the film had me so entertained, my film making mind was left too busy laughing that I was unable to watch Reitman's work unfold. That my friends is an achievement in and of itself!

"Juno": A-