Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bionic Cat

When nine lives are simply not enough...

In between changing the background here at Chicken Scratch and horsing around on Twitter I came across a Boing Boing posting concerning the "Cybercat". Here's that post:

From there I went to Wired where the story originated. I was hoping that there was video of the cat and there is! Check it all out here:

Howzabout dat.

Blu-Ray Dossier the Return

A running article here at Chicken Scratch is the Blu-Ray Dossier. I am a movie geek and a bit of a snob when it comes to the art and business of film. I love cinema and it has become one of my favorite delivery devices for plot and story. It is for this reason I am picky. Here in the Blu-Ray Dossier I like to give credit where credit is due for the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. The first rating that you see is all about how good a movie/film it is. The second rating is all about the jaw dropping Blu-ray factor. Modern cinema is shot in 1080p just the way a director usually intended you to see it. It is the gold standard the cameras use. Television has evolved to the point of High Definition and now 1080p is now an option for ones own home.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, grab some popcorn because here is what has been playing in Evil Chicken’s living room…

Where the Wild Things Are: 3 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Spike Jonze. The man can tell a story in a way that truly makes it his own. And Where the Wild Things Are is no different. The challenge is to make a full-length motion picture from a 15 or so page beloved children’s book. No easy feat. Yes, the Wild Things represent different people and parts of Max’s psyche and yeah, that’s cool to a degree but the film gets bogged down in it’s own complexities and loses a bit of it’s heart.

Sherlock Holmes: 3.5 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I loved the pairing of Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) with Jude Law (Watson). Great chemistry. I am looking forward to the sequel to this adventure through a blue-screened Victorian London. It was fun to watch and worth the rental. Some have criticized this film by saying that there was too much fighting that Holmes was involved with and that the filmmakers wanted to make him into an action hero. Conan Doyle’s Holmes WAS a pugilist and a man of action. He was not just Basil Rathbone with a violin, a pipe and a magnifying glass. That being said it is a passable action flick.

Twilight New Moon: 2 Stars / 3 Stars. I wanted to be fair with this one. I was hoping to walk that thin line between objectivity and honesty. I hope this passes. I am not a Twilight fan. Sparkling hundred year-old vampires who fall for high school girls who have friends that happen to be a pack of werewolves just don’t cut it for me. The CGI is not as wooden as the acting. The best part about this franchise is knowing that it is half over. Perhaps if I was a teenage girl I would feel differently? Nope, my three daughters are as perplexed at this phenomena as I am.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. I love Mr. Terry Gilliam. He is worth seeing no matter what it is he does. His work has a tendency to stay with you YEARS after you have seen it. It’s a sad state of affairs that he does not get the backing that he truly deserves most of the time. This time, and perhaps partiality due to the sad and untimely death of Mr. Heath Ledger, Gilliam does and he nails the dismount while doing so. The scenes shot in the real world – with Heath Ledger were complete. The scenes inside the Imaginarium – an amazing dreamscape where anything is possible were not. To rectify this Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Ferrell assumed the roll of the Hanged Man (Ledger) in the dream world. Check this one out. I guarantee that it is the most original thing that you have seen on your HDTV in a long time. The dedication of the film is pretty classy too.

Ponyo: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. Hayao Miyazaki, the same man who brought us “Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Princess Mononoke” gives the world his take on “The Little Mermaid”. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have been powerhouses of Japanese animation for decades. PIXAR is the house of magic here in the Americas and Studio Ghibli holds that honor in Japan. Miyazaki is a brilliant and gifted storyteller. If you are familiar then you know the spectacle that you are about to behold. If you are just discovering him and his work I am envious. You are in for a treat.

The Road: 4 Stars /3.5 Stars. I was depressed after viewing this film. But it stuck with me. Some may just say that it is just a downer of a film but now, after considering it further I believe this is a film about hope. Hope when there is absolutely nothing to be hopeful for. The plot follows a father and son as they traverse across a post apocalyptic world heading towards the ocean. There are some allegories at play here as well. SPOILER – SKIP TO THE NEXT REVIEW TO REMAIN PURE: Not to spoil your experience but the father is Moses. He gets to see the Promised Land but he is not allowed in. But there is hope for the children who actually make it to the land of milk and honey. This story of love and survival is not easy to watch but it will stay with you.

The Wolfman: 1 Star / 2 Stars. I so wanted this movie to knock it out of the park. It did not. I so wanted Stan Winston’s final film to be one for the ages. It is not. I so wanted to see Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro rip into their scenes together. They try but are caught in what must have been a development hell on set. One gets the feeling that once they started shooting the filmmakers really did not know which direction they were going to take this. Where they take it is clichéd and tired. I can’t believe I’m about to type this but “Twilight New Moon” is better than “The Wolfman”. Ouch.

Alice in Wonderland: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. Tim Burton – Johnny Depp? Here… just let my buy my ticket now. We (my daughters and I) really dug this quasi-sequel to the original Alice stories. Dizzying imaginations are at play in this production. The story is well served and realized and the green screen work is something to see. Depp shines as the Mad Hatter as does Mia Wasikowska as THE Alice – the Underland prophesized champion and potential slayer of the Jabberwocky. I thought it was fun film and worthy of the name, Alice.

4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. Back before “The Man With No Name” played by Clint Eastwood roamed Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns a ronin samurai, Sanjûrô Tsubaki, was pitting two rival gangs against each other in Yojimbo. What an amazing and influential film this truly is. Leone and his Japanese counterparts did a lot of ‘borrowing’ from each other in the early sixties. Thankfully we the viewers have a win win because of it, two great films one timeless story.

The Godfather Parts I & II: 5 Stars / 3.5 Stars. Yes, technically these are two separate films but they are meant to be one picture. What can one say that has not already been said about these classic films? I can say that it has been re-mastered for Blu-ray and that the print that they used to do so is an improvement over the regular DVD release. Where these films truly shine are in the storytelling and the acting. The characterizations that Brando, Pacino, Caan, DeNiro, Duvall and Keaton bring to life are epic in scope. Francis Ford Coppola made lightning strike twice with these films. They are national treasures. If you have not seen them in some time check them out on Blu-ray. Have some pasta with meat gravy and maybe some cannoli. You really cannot go wrong with these films and that’s something you can take to the mattress.

See you at Blockbuster!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weird Al Live

It was a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. And, for yours truly, there was nowhere and no one else that I wanted to spend it with then my family. We played, we ate, we giggled, we guffawed, and we spent time together as a unit (which is good since we can do more damage that way). It was great. I count my blessings every day for the other four members of the EC-5. I tell you this, Gentle Reader, because I would be remiss in not telling you about one of the greatest Father’s Day events of this past weekend. My family, Mother Hen and the Three Chicks, took me to see “Weird Al” Yankovic at the Atlantic City Hilton!

Friends… what a show it was.

I have been a fan of Al’s for the last 29 years or so. I had the “Weird Al Yankovic In 3D” album (yes, that’s right, album) which had the song, “Eat It” on it which was Al’s first big hit. Since then Al has had other big hits such as, “Amish Paradise” and “White & Nerdy”. These are great but there are so many wonderful songs… “Weasel Stomping Day”, “I Love Rocky Road”, “Another One Rides the Bus”, “Charles Nelson Riley”, “I Want To Be Your Hog”, “The Saga Begins” and “Don’t Download This Song” are all classic Al. If you have not discovered his catalog for yourself then I urge you to do so. Mother Hen and I grew up with his music and we have passed this love along to our children. The Three Chicks are HUGE fans too. I suppose that was as inevitable as the tides. When the opportunity to see him live presented itself we jumped.

I am so glad we did.

Yankovic’s genius is evident not only in the song writing or his longevity but also in his live performance where it really shines. A Weird Al show is a multimedia extravaganza but the musicianship and sound reproduction of the band simply cannot be discounted. Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz on drums, Jim West on guitar, Steve Jay on bass and Rubén Valtierra on the keys are formidable.

Some find it is easy to dismiss Al Yankovic as an artist and musician but I am here to tell you that any such aspersions are highly misguided. There have been efforts for the last ten years or so to have him inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Gentle Reader, I am here to say that they deserve to be there.

If you get the chance to see him and the rest of the band live do so. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story 3

Buzz, Woody and company are back. They have had two previous excursions into film. “Toy Story” launched the storytelling Juggernaut that PIXAR evolved into back in 1995 and they changed the world. This one closes the story arc and gives a nod to the inevitable passage of time. Andy has grown up. He is 17 and he is heading to college. This leaves the remaining toys in his room in a serious dilemma. Will they make it to the attic for retirement, the curb for trash-day or be donated to the daycare center?

“Toy Story 3 – that’s kids stuff.”

Who are you? Who let you in here? There are those who simply do not deserve to smell the roses. Go now. Know that you leave with my pity and not my anger. Perhaps we shall meet again one day… perhaps at a tractor-pull.

Here is the deal; PIXAR consistently makes film that inspires, carries a message and touches the heart. I’m here to tell you that their record remains intact. Nine tenths of the regular live action stuff that Hollywood produces can’t even come close to PIXAR’s record. For yours truly, this is the best film that I have seen this year.

So there you have it, get to a nice air-conditioned theater and behold the latest PIXAR masterpiece. Gentle Reader, you will be glad that you did. I could gush further about how great PIXAR’s track record is. I could tell you that this is the final chapter in the “Toy Story” saga. I could retread all the wonderful things that other critics have said about this film but, in all actuality, that just keeps you out of the theater longer.


You need to see this film on the big screen. It comes in 2D and 3D. We saw the 3D. Whichever mode of story delivery you chose you will not be disappointed. Be warned, however, PIXAR will sneak the emotional wallop in just when you think the water is safe. I’m glad that I was wearing the “Real 3D” glasses – it hid the tracks of my manly tears.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday Morning Catch Up

Gentle Reader, it is good to touch base with you again. There has been much afoot here on this end of the internet connection so I do apologize for not checking in sooner.

“Really. …Really, Evil Chicken?”

Yes Really. I love Chicken Scratch but I’ve had some other irons in the fire lately.


Yes. Stop saying that. It’s getting annoying. Here are a few things that have been preoccupying my time…

A good friend and example to yours truly passed away recently. Mr. Michael McCarthy left us behind to be with the Lord. I do not weep for him. He went home. I weep for Cindy his wife, Mike his son and for the rest of us who knew him for the amazing man in the Lord that he was. I love ya Big Mike.

The act of collaboration! Myself and my partner in crime, Mr. Robert R. DeFrank completed a screenplay, “Being Others”. We registered it with WGA West and are now in the process of shopping it around. It’s family friendly fare that would work great on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel (YOU HEAR THAT NICK & WALT!). It’s about a young man who gains a power that changes his life and what he does with said power. It’s got a good message and I’m jazzed to have another script registered with the WGA. This marks the fifth time that I have conspired with another writer on a script. Interestingly enough each time has been different and has presented their own unique series of challenges. When you collaborate on a project you have to not only find your voice but co-conspirator’s voice as well. Once that happens all you have to do is serve the story. After some initial hiccups Bob and I have a script that we are very pleased with. I’ll let you know how it goes, Gentle Reader.

Speaking of the WGA, I also registered a short screenplay based on a short story I wrote a couple of years ago called, “NO RETURNS”. After it was registered I entered it into a short script competition called the Gimme Credit Short Script Competition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Speaking of collaborators; I had the pleasure of acting in a short film, “For Love of Zombies” by Ron DiPrimio I was a cemetery caretaker and then I was a zombie. Ron and I have written two scripts together. We pitched them in LA some years back. I am very pleased to see that he continues to move forward with his writing and his filmmaking. He’s a talented guy and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

I am working on two books. One is a collection of essays and the other is a collection of short stories. There will be much more about this in the future here at Chicken Scratch.

I’ve got a couple of blogs in my back pocket…

Oh man, I’ve gotta go… Mother Hen, who is busier than I am these days, just said that we are running late for a Geocaching Event.

Talk soon, Gentle Reader

Thanks for stopping by!