Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


One of the great unblanaces in the movie world has apparently been remedied: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have starred together in a film called Surfer, Dude (via Need Coffee):

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Economic stimulus loafers

Another Metafilter post:
The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker. "Istanbul-based Baydan Ayakkabicilik ...has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said..."
And another set of great comments:

Other investment opportunities: Segway, Rold Gold pretzels. A person could start a whole mutual fund around this!
posted by penduluum at 7:15 AM on December 21

Quick, someone throw a Chevy at him!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:38 AM on December 21

The Invisible Hand is throwing shoes now, apparently.
posted by Bromius at 7:41 AM on December 21

Steve Jobs is holding a MacBook Air and thinking....
posted by eriko at 7:56 AM on December 21

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"This is a bus."

Courtesy of Need Coffee, I would like to leave you with this slice of hilarity before we all venture into this last busy weekend before Christams. Enjoy:

What's up, Youngblood?

More here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What if the headscarf was made out of the Stars and Bars?

How many things do the Cheese-eating surrender monkeys of France and the Chambliss-electing good 'ol boys of Georgia have in common? Well, as of today, exactly ONE!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Oh, to be in England..."

Many thanks to Red and White for alerting me to this analysis over at
Britons should be proud of their differences here. Any discrimination against believers would be as despicable as reacting against atheists, but the country has found a winning formula by being entirely uninterested. By making religion a non-issue we keep our options open as to which politicians represent us, and live up to the ideals of our enlightenment forefathers. They wanted religion out of politics for two reasons: so no-one was discriminated against, and so its absolutism was kept out of the complex and nuanced world of actual policy making.
Go read the whole thing here.

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Roger Ebert's Little Movie Glossary contains great observations from both Ebert and his readers about film conventions that have developed over the years. Here's one of my own:

In any film that involves a plan of action, you can be guaranteed of the following:

(A) If the plan is explained in detail for the audience, then something (or multiple things) will go wrong with it (Back to the Future, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen).

(B) If the plan is partially or entirely concealed from the audience, it will most likely go off without a hitch (Ocean's Eleven, The Sting and Where Eagles Dare).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Acrentropy's Guide to DVD Multi-Packs

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've become a big fan of DVD Multi-Packs. These are cheap DVD sets that have at least three or more movies in one set (or any number of classic TV show episodes). The films and episodes are usually in public domain or are just obscure titles that cost very little to procure the rights to. In other words, they are Dollar Store DVD's on a grander scale.

To some, this may not sound like an appealing package. Many of these titles are forgotten for a reason, and the transfers often leave a lot to be desired. But that's part of the diamond-in-the-rough pleasure of seeking these sets out.

As these kinds of sets have gained in popularity, more and more companies have entered the market. Even the big studios have been putting out relatively inexpensive two, three and four packs of films great and not-so-great. But when it comes to bang for your buck, it's best to go for the cheapies. Here's a rundown of the companies to look for:

(Reviewer's Note: I'm not testifying to transfer quality on these titles. Most of these companies do not do painstaking restoration efforts for such obscure films, so I assume that identical titles in different sets are relatively similar in appearance.)

Name: Mill Creek Entertainment
Number: 10, 20, 50, 100 and 250 packs.

Mill Creek is the BMOC when it comes to multi-packs. Though they only started selling them four years ago, their catalog has grown substantially in number, quality and variety since then. The packaging and discs themselves are first rate, and I own quite a few of them myself (including the four pictured above). I have found that one disadvantage of owning so many is that quite a few of the titles are repeated in different sets. But given the budget price you pay, it's a very minor complaint.

One of the most impressive aspects of Mill Creek is their web presence. The company website is easy to navigate and provides information on every single title in each set, including which of the different sets include said title (in case you want to avoid double dipping). Their latest innovation is their own YouTube channel, where they are posting clips of each film so that you can have a preview of the titles (and the quality of the transfer) before you buy. If you're a newbie to multi-packs, I highly recommend going with Mill Creek your first time out.

Name: Pendulum Pictures
Number: 6, 50 and 100 packs.

Pendulum Pictures is a new offshoot of Mill Creek that deals exclusively in very recent, low budget horror. Now as much as I love Mill Creek, I have to advise extreme caution to anyone tempted to purchase one of these sets. There is a big difference between low budget camp of yesteryear and painfully horrid acting of the here and now. Most of these are from young, amateur filmmakers who have the budget for a digital camera, buckets of fake blood and that's about it. The diamond-in-the-rough theory applies to these films as well, but the slogging may be more pain than most people will be willing to endure (just ask Nathan Shumate).

Name: St. Clair Entertainment
Number: Anywhere between 8 and 13, mostly.

Even more so than Mill Creek, St. Clair has been one of the most pervasive companies putting out multi-packs in stores. They also have a uniform (if cartoony) appearance with a colored stripe on top and a numeral that announces the number of hours of entertainment per set. The titles they list are the same kind of public domain movies you see in other sets, but they do have a wide variety of themed packages to choose from (including a "Bible Time" set).

Recently, they have been experimenting with new packaging styles, but they don't seem to have decided on a specific one yet. In addition to the last two above, there is a third that is a very classy black & white look that I've recently seen on the shelves at BJ's. The titles are mostly the same, and one has to wonder if the different looks are there to fool customers into buying multiple sets with the same titles.

Name: BCI Eclipse (aka Brentwood aka Navarre)
Number: 4, 8 and 10.

BCI has been around for longer than Mill Creek and also has an impressive catalog of titles. My very first multi-pack was the "Galactica" Sci-Fi set (which I reviewed here) and it was what got me initially hooked. There's a lot of confusion as to what the company is called and who owns who (I have always called them Brentwood). And in terms of their website, it's the polar opposite of Mill Creek's in terms of accessibility. The interface makes it appear as a purely corporate, money making endeavor, which doesn't really jibe with the care that clearly has gone into making these sets over the years.

But recently, they have done a radical redesign with their products. "Eight" is now the magic number and the films aren't as obscure as they used to be. Now they're putting down money for film titles that are very familiar to anyone who browsed video stores in the eighties and nineties. Some crisp cover art and a clear listing of the enclosed titles (in the original font, no less) really have a professional sheen to them. Granted, many of the titles are on the level of Porkys, but there is no doubt an audience for these, and Brentwood is producing a quality package.

Name: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Number: Completely random.

In terms of number, Echo Bridge is one of the few companies that dare venture into Mill Creek's territory of packs larger than 20 films. Unfortunately, their numbers (and packaging) are all over the place, which makes customer loyalty a bit of a problem. Their lack of focus may be due to the fact that multi-packs appear to be only a small portion of their product line, as their website does not seem to have a separate section that lists them. However, they do seem to have some "adult" genres that other companies do not offer.

Name: Allegro Video
Number: 2, 4 and 10.

Allegro, like St. Clair, also seems to be experimenting with packaging styles. This includes one series that has a classy black & white background with the featured actor front and center and a clear list of the titles included. When you look at so many of these different packages with their jumbled and crowded cover art, such a professional presentation is a pleasant relief.

However, it must be said that one of these packages performs some misdirection that other companies such as Mill Creek are also guilty of. Nearly all of the companies that do multi-packs have a John Wayne package because there are a number of JW titles in the public domain. However, most of them feature cover art of an older Rio Bravo-era Wayne. In reality, with the exception of Mclintock!, all of the PD films are early B&W pre-Stagecoach films. It's still the Duke, but it's not quite the Duke we know and love. So be forewarned.

Name: Vintage Home Entertainment
Number: 3 and 6.

Vintage keeps it simple with their catalog: Either it's three movies on one disc or six movies on two discs. Such consistency and low numbers may also appeal to those who want to start small in dealing with multi-packs. Also, as I mentioned with John Wayne, be also wary of cheap Alfred Hitchcock packs. All of them contain fuzzy transfers of his British films before he came over to the states. Again, it's still the Hitch, but there's no James Stewart or Cary Grant to be found here.

Name: Viedoasia
Number: 6, 10 and 20.

Videoasia reaps most of their reward courtesy of Quentin Tarantino. All one has to do to see their inspiration is look at QT's last two films: Kill Bill and Death Proof. The result is a relishing of the Martial Arts and Grindhouse genres. Like the new Brentwood 8-movie sets, these are some slick packages that go the extra mile to procure titles that have not been done to death in this market. They are easily found in Best Buy and could be giving Mill Creek a run for their money with their cool veneer.

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

Let's have a round of applause for Matthew Belinkie at for creating this piece of pure genius. It just flows so well. My hat is off to you, sir:

Incidentally, the music is from one of my favorite films, Henry V. You see a bit of it near the end, and it is possibly the greatest of the speeches featured here (it's certainly the oldest).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Bruges

Golden Globes Nominees. Clint and Woody. Sean and Heath. Blah, blah, blah.

The most surprising thing from the list was the inclusion of In Bruges. I had heard good stuff about this film before I popped in the DVD earlier this year, but I was really bowled over at how smart and touching it was. It may look like your standard Guy Ritchie-esque violent comedy (and there are definitely elements of that present), but it's so much more. Congrats.

Monday, December 08, 2008

More fun with IMDb trivia

From Back to the Future:

The device originally considered for use as the time travel machine was a refrigerator. Director Robert Zemeckis said in an interview that the idea was scrapped because he and Steven Spielberg did not want children to start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside.
Hmm. I guess Stevie changed his mind about that. Too bad Zemeckis wasn't around to warn him against making crappy sequels.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All I want for Chistmas is...

Boing Boing posts about all kinds of off-the-wall items, but it also has a number of recurrent themes on their posts: Steampunk, Creative Commons and Disney's Haunted Mansion, just to name a few. Another is bookcases, which as a bibliophile I can totally get behind. However, most of the ones they feature are too esoteric for my rather conventional tastes. Then they posted this little number earlier today:

I so want one of these.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be for sale (and it looks like it would be a pain in the butt to build by hand). Oh well, it looks like we're sticking with the Target pressboard we already have (sigh).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Not heeding the 13th Apostle

In Dogma, Rufus (Chris Rock) states that Jesus' biggest complaint with mankind was the factioning of the religions. Not that I expect for church leaders to watch Dogma (let alone take advice from it), It's nonetheless sad to see their continued determination to piss Jesus off.

Theological conservatives upset by the liberal views of the Episcopal Church are forming a rival denomination.

The new Anglican Church in North America will include four Episcopal dioceses that recently split from the U.S. church, along with breakaway Anglican parishes from Canada.

The announcement Wednesday in Wheaton, Illinois, comes after decades of debate over what Episcopalians should believe about issues ranging from salvation to sexuality. Tensions erupted in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop.

The world Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches with roots in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States. But the new North American church says it represents true Anglican beliefs.
Why don't they just call it the "Republican Church" and just get it over with?

Next up, jokes about Dunn & Bradstreet

I watched The Big Bus last night, which is kind of an Airplane-type goofy comedy that predates Airplane by four years. As with that later film, the jokes sometime go hard and fast, and when you have that density of jokes, you can afford to put in ones that only a few people (like, say, librarians) would get.

At some point during the film, the driver discovers a bomb underneath the bus. When he tells his girlfriend about it over the walkie talkie, she asks him if it has a red and white dial in the bottom right corner. When the driver says yes, the camera cuts to her in the front of the bus reading from an over sized blue book titled Jane's Book Of Bombs.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Somebody still has some anger issues.

While many liberals have decided to finally put Bush out of their minds now that the age of Obama is upon us, others are not as willing to let bygones be bygones.

The Onion's "In Brief" news section usually has headlines that tells the joke and then a paragraph-long story that expounds on it, such as "Financial Planner Advises Shorter Life Span". But in the past two weeks, it has featured two Bush stories that didn't really have a punchline. On the nineteenth, the story "Crocodile Bites Off Bush's Arm" was posted, and then nine days later the headline "Bush Passes Three-Pound Kidney Stone" was published.

There are no exaggerations in the story body that signals the joke (such as Bush heroically taking his severed arm and beating the crocodile to death). The two stories are told very straight as if these events actually happened. The commonality here, of course, is that Bush endures unbelievable pain in both instances. Could it be that someone at the Onion feels that karma is not moving fast enough and that we need to engage in fictional schadenfreude? It appears so.

Speaking for myself, I'm more in the camp of moving on instead of looking back. And as for the Onion, they should probably just stick to comedy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Giancarlo Esposito Quote of the Month: December 2008

We end the year with a TV movie, but one which has the pedigree of a stellar TV series backing it up.

Homicide: The Movie comes at the end of the crime series' seven series run. I only caught a handful of episodes myself, but I could tell the quality just from that glimpse. Giancarlo's character only came in for the last season, which then transferred to the movie. He joined the regular cast (including Quote of the Month alumn Yaphet Kotto) to send the show out on a grand note. From what I've read, they did. And Giancarlo's Officer Giardello gets one of the last lines:

Det. Frank Pembleton: "Death is every day. Death goes on... and on and on."

Officer Mike Giardello: "And that's because life... goes on and on."