Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blu-Ray Dossier Volume 2.0: the Halloween Edition

“The Children of the Night… what (or vhat) music they make.”

Tis the season, the Halloween season that is. I thought that I would round up a few possible options for you Blu-ray pleasure with this edition of the Dossier. I’ve seen 4 movies recently and I’m about to tell you what I thought of ‘em but before I do here are the ground rules. As before (see: asdf) the movies are rated on a two round system; round one is all about the story and round two is all about the Blu-ray. That’s, that. Now open up your bag 'cause here come the goodies.

Diary of the Dead” 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. This is George Romero’s latest foray into the genre that he practically invented, the “Zombie Movie”. This is a smaller more personal venture and it is a turn for the better. His last movie, “Land of the Dead”, really didn’t do it for me. It had some great ideas but great ideas do not a great movie make. But enough about that, we’re talking Diary. The plot follows a group of college kids whose film project becomes a documentary of the first few days of the Zombie Outbreak. It made me jump a couple of time but, admittedly, that’s not all that hard to do. If you are a Romero fan this will make it’s way into your collection.

Sleepy Hollow” 4 Stars / 3 Stars. I would like to go on record and say anything that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp make together is worth seeing, if not on the big screen then, most certainly, on Blu-ray. Burton’s Sleepy Hollow changes up the story but still makes it atmospheric with a suburban Victorian feel. Ichabod is no longer the schoolteacher / choir director, he is now a constable who has been sent to the little settlement to investigate a series of murders and thanks to a certain ghostly headless Hessian solider business is brisk. There is something about this story (Washington Irving’s original and Tim Burton’s interpretation) that strike a chord with me; it always reminds me of the fall season, of my childhood and why I never take covered bridges at night. A masterfully realized story but the jaw dropping Blu-ray factor only ranks an average.

Poltergeist” 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a great example of what a horror film could be. Even after all the years since the film’s release and a few dated special effects – this movie works. The story is by some guy named “Steven Spielberg” and the director duties go to some guy named, “Tobe Hooper”. What an amazing marriage. The character development and acting are spot on the money. This one deserves to be among the pantheon of great horror movies for it’s creepy factor alone; which is, by the way, something woefully ignored by the lion’s share of today’s filmmakers. The Blu-ray quality stands out when you see the housing development where the story unfolds. If this is not in your collection then Halloween is, most certainly, a great time to rent it and to remind yourself what a decent horror movie looks like.

Hellboy II – The Golden Army” 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is one that is technically not a horror movie. Oh sure there are elements that are impossible to not recognize or ignore but, at it’s core, “Hellboy II” is the story of a heroes journey. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. There is a reason why he is the man at the helm for “The Hobbit”. His attention to detail and story are evident from the first few frames and overtly obvious when the cast is at the Troll Market. It is simply beautiful. If you missed it the first time around check it out. It is part of my collection. It may not be for young eyes due to big monsters fighting each other in Manhattan and Ireland but if you can remember that it’s only a movie you will be entertained. Here’s hoping that Hellboy III gets a green light!

And there you have it; some Blu-Ray Dossier picks for Halloween. Rent some and see for yourself; but beware… “For even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf (or volf) when (or vhen) the wolves (or volves) bane blooms and the moon is full… and bright.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Novel Writing Month 2009

The MIGHTY NaNoWriMo is poised to RETURN in but a few days. The one question for YOU, Gentle Reader, is “Are you in?”

Here is the main website:, it will answer any questions that you have and, if you have a novel in you wanting to escape, is your portal to a wonderfully insane creative activity. You see, in the month of November YOU, if you sign up and are dedicated enough to the cause, are going to write a novel.

“That’s impossible.”

NAY! It is possible all you have to do is start on November 1st, follow through and finish on November 30th with 50,000 words under your belt. Congratulations; YOU have just written the draft of your first novel.


It is a lot of fun and a personal challenge. I’ve participated in four of ‘em and have crossed the finish line twice. If a hack like myself can do it so can you.

So… are YOU in?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blu-Ray Dossier

Welcome, Gentle Reader, to a new feature here at Chicken Scratch – the Blu-Ray Dossier. It is no secret. I love movies. I love the way stories are told. I love to hear how they came to fruition and I like to see them realized correctly – how the storyteller’s (hopefully) intended. Friends, let me just say that, if you enjoy movies, especially blockbuster, tent pole productions, then you need to get an HDTV (LCD, 1080p, with at least a 128 megahertz refresh rate for the video games), a Blu-Ray player and a surround sound system.

“Why?” you may ask. “Why should I spend the money on such equipment?”

I could explain that HD is now the broadcast standard, I could tell you that a 5.1 surround sound experience is a wonderful way to enjoy a movie, broadcast, or videogame and I could say that Blu-Ray justifiably deserves to be at the top of the heap when it comes to watching film and/or movies BUT until you see and hear it for yourself you would be a fool not to ask and, Gentle Reader, you are no fool. What can I tell you? Bite the bullet and make the jump. You will not be disappointed.

That being said, I have been watching a lot of Blu-ray movies recently. They are crisp, clean, 1080p (that is how movies are filmed) transfers of the films from the original footage. The picture is startling. The sound is astonishing. The movies are, now, taking on a life of their own, even more so than before. Please don’t get me wrong nothing can replace the theater experience, nor should it, but the joy (and yes this is the correct word here); the joy is that it removes the human element. There is no one answering their cell phone, talking, texting or getting up to pee or get more popcorn in your living room (unless that is what you want). NO it is a flawless transfer of a story from the filmmaker to you on your terms. It is worth its weight in gold.

“All right, so what’s this Blu-Ray Dossier that you keep talking about?”

I am so glad that you asked, Gentle Reader. The Blu-Ray Dossier will be not only a review of the film/movie (there is a difference), but it will also be a critique of how good the Blu-Ray Disc delivers. I will be looking for cinematography that makes my jaw drop and when I see it I will let you know about it.

So here is how it works; there will be two star ratings on a sliding scale from 1 to 5, the more stars the better. The first star is a rating for the movie and the second is for the sheer, jaw dropping, awesomeness of the quality of the film in question. With the Blu-Ray Dossier it will be possible for a 1 star movie to have a 5 star rating for the jaw dropping, crystal clear cinematography. The reverse is true too. Since I’m a geek I may ruminate a bit about the film/movie in question and I might recommend it for purchase, rental or to bypass it completely. All right, that’s enough of that; here we go with Volume I…

“The Dark Knight” Rating: 5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. What can you say that has not already been said? This is a great film. The sweeping shots of Hong Kong and Gotham will take your breath away. This is one for your library.

“Batman/Superman, Public Enemies” Rating: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is the first animated Blu-ray movie that I have seen and it did not disappoint on story (which is based on Jeff Lobe’s graphic novel) and clarity of picture. One of the best things about this Blu-ray is the special features which include a dinner conversation with the producers, writers and Mr. Kevin Conroy – the voice of the Batman. Just great stuff. Comic geeks may consider adding this to your collection and interested muggles will enjoy the rental.

“Casino Royale” Rating: 5 Stars / 5 Stars. Daniel Craig is the best James Bond since Sean Connery and probably the closest thing to the original intent of Ian Fleming’s books as we will ever see. This is a great Blu-ray Disc and, to date, the finest I have seen. The cinematography is unbelievably beautiful and the exotic locations have never looked so detailed and clear. This is a must see.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Rating: 4 Stars / 4.5 Stars. I love keeping up with the Jones’s. It is great to see Indiana Jones back in action. It’s not “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but, then again, what is? The Blu-ray action is a crisp, clean transference and worth the rental. It is in my library but you may feel different.

“Quantum of Solace” Rating: 4 Stars / 4.5 Stars. This one takes up right where “Casino Royale” ends. It’s a good one – not as good as “Casino Royale” but certainly worth the rental. If you’re a Bond fan you may want to make it part of your collection.

“Drag Me to Hell” Rating: 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Sam Rami. He has taken the art form of making movies to another level with his camera angles, sweeps and close ups. He is an exciting filmmaker and always worth a look-see.

“Land of the Lost” Rating: 3 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I liked this much more than I thought I would. As a child of the seventies the idea of Sleestacks on the big screen makes my inner geek smile. Worth the rental for nostalgia’s sake but be prepared to explain a couple of sexual themes to little ones if they happen to be watching.

“Nightmare Before Christmas” Rating 4.5 Stars / 5 Stars. This is an animated, stop motion, masterpiece. Tim Burton’s vision is realized through Henry Selick’s stop motion, directorial, art. Amazing film and it has never looked so crisp and clean. This is one that you should have in your collection.

“The Prestige” Rating: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. What a wonderful story. This is one that could stand up to repeated viewings. This is a genre-bending tale that is so incredibly well realized that you will have to watch it more than once. The direction and acting are superb. David Bowie as Tesla! Please. You just may want to make this one part of your collection too.

“Transformers – Rise of the Fallen” Rating: 2 Stars / 4 Stars. Story wise there is not too much that meets the eye. Megan Fox eases it up from a 1.5 to a 2 star rating. It’s pretty awful; it is not designed to be, no, this movie was made to highlight the brilliant computerized special effects laced throughout. Note I only give the Blu-ray factor a 4 star rating. That is because the movie, while in jaw dropping, Blu-ray only highlights a jumbled mess of action on the screen that is pretty hard to decipher. It is a beautiful jumbled mess but a mess, nonetheless. Rent it if you have to.

There’s volume one; volume two will not be far behind. See you at the Blockbuster – I’ll be the one with the worn ID care, the coupons and the box of Raisinettes.

See ya next time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Game is Afoot!

Gentle Reader, I am sorry. I am sorry that I have not checked in recently. Rest assured, I still love you, it's just that my attentions have been other places recently... I blame the addtion of HDTV and Blu-Ray to my life. For a movie geek like me it is like manna from Heaven. I've been enjoying it so much that I will be starting a feature here on Chicken Scratch in the VERY near future on different Blu-Ray releases.

That being said there is also much afoot. Work, a topic that I do not trouble you with, has been quite... interesting lately. NaNoWriMo is going to be starting in November, I'm still colaborating on a script with a buddy of mine, I'm looking forward to James Cameron's "Avatar" & "A Christmas Carol" (in the theaters real soon), and I am mourning the loss of one of my childhood icons, Captain Lou Albano. Each of these particular items is "blog worthy" but for now please consider this Yours Truly, "checking in".

We will talk in greater depth soon, Gentle Reader, I promise.

Rest in Peace, Capt. Lou!