Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blue-Ray Dossier - Volume 3.0

This is a busy time of year for yours truly. November is National Novel Writing Month, the holidays are right around the corner, I’m collaborating with a friend of mine on a screenplay, I’m still blogging, and then there are all of those wonderful Blu-ray movies that keep popping up.

Gentle Reader, all thought there are shenanigans aplenty, I humbly want you to know that I am still fighting the good fight; I’m still watching movies – Blu-ray movies that is. I rate movies on a one – five star, two round system; round one is all about the story and round two is all about the Blu-ray. The more stars the better. Here’s what has been on the menu…

Beetlejuice” 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Tim Burton. Say what you will but the man has a unique vision when it comes to creating worlds on film. He has an eye for telling stories. Beetlejuice is no different. What’s not to like about this Tim Burton film about a Bio-Exorcist (a ghost who gets rid of the living for you)? You have a recently deceased, naive couple that is trying to rid themselves of the obnoxious new owners of their home. They can’t do the job themselves and when the regular lines of bureaucracy in the afterlife fail them they call on Beetlejuice adeptly played by Michael Keaton. Brilliant stuff. You will giggle. The Blu-ray aspect is not as good as it could have been but I believe it is only a question of technology. “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland” is being released in 2010 and I have no doubt that when that hits Blu-ray my jaw will drop. Beetlejuice is retrofitted but worth your time.

Monsters Vs. Aliens” 3 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a cute movie. Reese Witherspoon voices Susan, a woman whom on her wedding day becomes the 50 Foot Woman. She is captured by the government and then is united with a group of monsters that have been hidden away since the fifties. It’s light, it’s entertaining and the kids loved it. There you go. The Blu-ray factor is better. Watching the Golden Gate Bridge get destroyed was a feast for the eyes. When the President of the United States is attacked by the giant robot the detail was gorgeous. This was worth the rental and you may want to pick up a copy if you have little ones.

Up” 5 Stars / 5 Stars. I do not think that I have ever seen a better picture about the human grieving process than “Up”. There is a lot of symbolism in this one. Pixar can do no wrong. Be warned, this is a tearjerker that has mortality and adventure at its heart. You will be moved. The wizards at Pixar are able to accomplish more with a well-told, heartfelt story via computer animation than a lot of flesh and blood directors and actors can on film. It is brilliant storytelling and yes, I cried. The joy of this film is that Pixar never once treats you, the viewer, like an idiot by making the characters anything less than flesh and blood. Simply brilliant. The Blu-ray factor will knock your socks off. The balloons and the detail on the Tapui mountain tops… spectacular. This is not in my collection yet but it will be.

King Kong the Extended Edition” 4.5 Stars / 5 Stars. Peter Jackson is one of my favorite guys to watch in the business. Not only is he a great storyteller but also he is a fan. This is at once an homage and a digital upgrade to one of my all time favorites, 1933’s RKO Pictures, “King Kong”. This film is a love letter to the original and Jackson delivers. He used some of the actors from his Lord of the Rings trilogy so you may see one or two familiar faces along the way including Andy Serkis (Golem from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who plays Lumpy the cook and does the motion capture work for King Kong himself. The trouble with doing a remake of a legend is that everyone already knows how it ends. Still this one is worth your time just for the action that takes place on Skull Island alone. The Blu-ray factor is mesmerizing. Your jaw will drop. The detail is startling. If you are a fan of Kong you probably already own this one. If you are not the Extended Edition (emphasis on the ‘Extended’ at over 3 hours and 20 minutes) is most certainly worth your time.

G.I. Joe” 2.5 Stars / 3 Stars. I went into this one prejudiced. I went in thinking preconceived and assumed bad things about the movie, which is not entirely too fair. I should approach unseen movies / films with an open mind instead of being closed off to the possibility that I may actually like a project and that, perhaps, it can stand on it’s own merit. I should aspire to be a better Evil Chicken. What can I say? I was wrong to be so heavy handed. It was better than I thought it was going to be. They took a toy line and cartoon from the eighties (they ignored the G.I. Joe that I grew up with minus a “Kung Fu Grip” nod) and put it on the big screen with aplomb. This being said, “G.I. Joe” is not Shakespeare or Spielberg – It’s “G.I. Joe”. Don’t go into this movie thinking it’s going to be a film and you’ll have a good time. I liked the

Star Trek” 4.5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. J.J. Abrams and the new crew of the Enterprise deliver BIG TIME on this resetting of a cultural and science fiction behemoth, Star Trek. I am a fan so it was important to remain as fair and balanced as possible. Mr. Abrams and company know what they are doing. This crew from a universe just next to ours take an over 40 year cannon of stories and flip it on it’s pointy ear. That is no easy feat. What’s old is new once more and sacred cows are the first things to be slaughtered. Anything goes in this new universe. Kirk and Spock hate each other, a major federation planet implodes and Captain Pike does not BEEP! Oh, it is a good time to jump on board the Enterprise. Speaking of the Enterprise; she looks beautiful in Blu-ray. There is a special section on disc two where you can investigate the Enterprise. Do so. I have always loved the design of this vessel and J.J.’s starship is a wonder to behold unto itself. I can’t wait to boldly go where no other Star Trek has gone before… back to the beginning – this is not wrote, it’s new and anything can happen. I own this one and you should too.

So there you have it, Gentle Reader, Volume III of the Blu-Ray Dossier. I’ll see you in line at Blockbuster!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How Free Enterprise Will Save the Future of Space Exploration

We were going back to the moon in 2020. I taught a summer camp class on “Star Trek” this past summer at my local Community College. The meat and potatoes of my class was not only Star Trek, but also a history of space exploration, where we are and where we, humanity, may be heading in the next handful of years. I told my class about the Ares and Orion programs from NASA where were going to be replacing the Space Shuttle and that, if the funding was there, humanity would be returning to the moon. Well, funding will be going to other places for now. Chances are NASA will not be able to afford the trip.

Abstract ideals such as exploration are not enough for your Average Joe to hang his hat on and get behind. No. Exploration has to have purpose, has to be a means to an end; it has to turn a profit. Historically, this has always been the case. It is, therefore, not proper for me to throw too many stones towards the bureaucrats.

So just how does one make exploration a profitable venture? Well, you’ve got to give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle. You have to captivate the senses of said Average Joe and you have to show a profit at the end of the day; a reason for reason, so to speak. Before he died, Arthur C. Clarke postulated that orbital platforms could be tethered to the earth like great swinging stones. Why? These tethered orbital platforms would have access for experimentation and tourist dollars but the best benefits would be to communication and to energy production since as this orbital platform is cutting its way through the ionosphere it is producing electricity which, in turn, would be completely green and, as long as the orbital platform remains tethered to the earth, inexhaustible. Think of how many jobs such platforms would provide for Average Joe’s around the world. Speaking of energy and jobs how about orbital solar arrays? Unfiltered sunlight, unspoiled by the earth’s atmosphere, channeled directly to your outlet from Mother Nature herself. Money made.

I don’t have the capitol to attempt either of these options but someone out there does. Don’t believe me? Well, back in my Star Trek class I also told my students about Virgin Galactic and how Sir Richard Branson was going to be putting the future of space travel into the hands of entrepreneurs instead of bureaucrats. This December (2009) the VSS Enterprise is going to be making history. Based on the technology from Space Ship One (which won the X-Prize and is now hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum between the X-1 and the Spirit of St. Louis) it will usher in a new era. Space flight is now within the Average Joe’s hands. Granted that Average Joe will have to pay about 200 K for a ticket but let it be known, that is a LOT cheaper than NASA, not only that but this technology is real; it has happened and, come December, it will be happening on a regular basis. Here is Virgin Galactic’s computer generated promo of what is about to happen – NEXT MONTH: New Mexico is now the home to the world’s first Spaceport. Seriously.

Free enterprise will save space exploration. It is a matter of time and a matter of profit. We were going back to the moon in 2020. I do not believe that NASA can do it. With the world the way it is unprofitable exploration is not at a premium. If you can make a dollar, yen or rupee that mindset will change in a New York minute. Therefore, I say give Sir Richard Branson a shot; I believe he will have us to the moon much sooner and at a fraction of the cost that the bureaucrats are projecting.

If I could afford it, I’d go aboard the VSS Enterprise inaugural flight. What about you, Gentle Reader?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Evil Chicken Supports Uncle Floyd

I do not usually talk politics here on Chicken Scratch. I subscribe to the original Greek breakdown of the word; poly meaning many and ticks meaning blood sucking creatures. Obi Wan Kenobi while talking to Anakin Skywalker about then Senator Amidala said, “Anakin, she is a politician and not to be trusted.” Episodes I, II & III are pretty underwhelming but that line has always rang true. Politicians are not to be trusted. The political players are all the same. Do you know what happens on November 4, the day after Election Day? Absolutely nothing. The commercials and obnoxious mailings come to a halt, mercifully; and all of the promises during the campaign (from either side mind you) remain just that – promises.

These, however, are different times and here in New Jersey I believe that it is time for a real change. That is why I am officially endorsing Uncle Floyd Vivino for Governor. Check it all out here: for the gory details.

That’s right, I’m voting for Uncle Floyd!

“Oh, you are throwing your vote away.” You may say.

No, Gentle Reader, I am participating in a democracy. I am making my voice of dissatisfaction heard. I have my reasons that I don’t want either of the big two in the office so I am casting my vote for a true New Jersey native, a man who has made me laugh and entertained me from the time that I was but a child; Uncle Floyd.

Go out and vote today. I don’t care how you do vote, just vote (although I am pulling for Uncle Floyd). If you don’t vote then you really don’t have a right to complain when the chuckleheads do something that you don’t like.

See you at the polls.