Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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Monday, July 12, 2010

no clue movie review: Toy Story 3

I have to admit that I was kind of excited for this movie. I wasn't sure what to expect but I loved the previous 2 films and Pixar had yet to disappoint me. These characters have always been top notch and last year when I saw the re-issue of the 1st two films in 3D, I fell in love with them all over again. I am normally skeptical of a 3rd film in a series, but this was an excellent movie overall.

The setup for this story is amazing. Growing up with these films as many of us have, you really feel for these characters. When you see all the characters coming on the screen for the first time, all those good feelings come rushing back. I expected at some point to be feeling like I've seen this all before and that I might grow tired of the toys. NOT AT ALL!!! The story is fantastic and packs an emotional wallop at the end. I teared up a bit, I admit it. We get introduced to many new characters, but my favorite voice of them all is Michael Keaton as Ken (of Ken & Barbie). He is absolutely a stand out. Everyone is good though. I know its hard to judge acting by a voice actor, but I definitely didn't feel like I was hearing an actor, these characters seemed alive to me yet again.

From a technical standpoint, this film is amazing looking. The animation is fantastic. Pixar is getting really good at people too. I remember that in the first Toy Story that people looked not quite that good, but you forgave it because it was such a good story. Well, they have really mastered their look. Plus, the movie is filled with honest to goodness action sequences and so many "blockbuster" movie shots that I was in heaven.

Now, I have seen this movie in both 3D and 2D. I will say that you don't need to see this in 3D. It definitely doesn't detract from the movie, in fact there are a couple of great 3D sequences, but the 2D version is just as good. Pixar's animation is all you need.

I would say that this is probably my favorite movie of the year so far. Great story, great characters, hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad at times too. It runs the gamut of emotions. It's great for kids of all ages. I've seen this now with a 8 year old, 7 year old, 17 year old, 60 year old, 36 year old and finally a 2 year old. EVERYONE LOVED IT!!! Truly amazing, since you don't see that very often. In fact, my nephew, the 2 year old - this was his first movie theater experience and he sat through the whole thing and didn't get up once.

I think I've said it a bunch of times, but this is a fantastic movie that deserves to be seen over and over again.

Official site

Thanks for checking this out and come back for more soon. Hopefully, I will have seen some more movies...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

no clue movie review: The Last Airbender

I didn't know anything about the Nickelodeon animated TV series before seeing this movie. I had a friend who was a fan. I had seen a really good trailer or 2 for this movie and it looked cool. It was directed by M. Night Shyamalan which piqued my interest. M. Night has had a spotty track record. I loved The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable. I absolutely hated The Village & Lady in the Water and have yet to see The Happening. Thankfully there is no twist ending in this movie. I also believed that he would try to stay true to the story. In short, this movie is a big fat disappointment for me and filled with wasted opportunities.

I actually was hooked in the beginning of the flick. There is a mythology that is interesting and there are some pretty spectacular special effects not too far into the film. As the movie went on, it just got bad. The writing in the film just keeps hitting you over the head and I felt like many of the characters kept saying the same thing over and over again. There is far too much voiceover in this movie too. Many times, the voiceover talks about what I thought would be cool stuff to see. Perhaps there is just too much information to get across in one film, not sure. All I know is that when a movie starts telling me stuff and not showing me, that's never adding to my level of enjoyment.

The movie has a really dark tone. Not really one moment where I felt the mood lightened and I was feeling a sense of wonder. Which is odd, because the subject matter lends itself to that. Overall, it just feels like it is taking itself so serious and important. That lessened my enjoyment. I mean even The Dark Knight which was ultra-violent and ultra-serious at times, made me chuckle a few times.

The acting feels very robotic and at times just awful. I suspect that had a lot to do with the writing, but there are only a few bright spots. Anytime that Dev Patel (Prince Zuko) and Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh) are on screen together, I felt a connection. They have a real father-son type bond.

The movie isn't a complete waste of time. There are some spectacular effects - especially the water bending effects. The pacing seems good, except for all the voiceovers which drag it down. Appa - Aang's pet or buddy, whatever you want to call him - looked very cool too.

After the movie - my friend Mike had me watch 2 episodes of the series. The tone is completely different. It has a fun and coming of age, exploring your powers kind of tone. Downright hilarious. Strong mythology and can get tense at times (granted I've seen 2 episodes), but overall whimsical really. This movie totally doesn't give you the same feeling. I would watch the series again, but probably not the movie.

Overall, a really big disappointment of a movie which seems to have a very rich mythology to pull from for a film franchise. Too bad. It's not an unwatchable bad movie. I was entertained. There are some cool moments to watch, but overall, it's just OK. I want to add that I saw this movie in 3D, which I generally enjoy, and this movie has horrible 3D. It's like a hatchet job in my opinion. It gives the technology a bad name. Don't waste your money - the glasses don't do anything to improve the movie.

Film's Trailer
Official Site

Thanks for reading, I hope to post more reviews soon. I haven't seen as many movies this summer as I normally do, but I have seen a few.

new blog design

I played around today with my blogger design. Using the new "design" tab within blogger. It's surprisingly great. I really like the new look and it wasn't difficult to use. Some great template designs that don't require any knowledge of html, css, etc. I guess it helps, but I literally didn't use anything except the tool. I used to customize my blog html/css code, but I don't think I'm going to bother for awhile. Anyway, if you haven't used it, you should check it out. Just log into Blogger and click on the Design tab. OK, I'm going to post some stuff today.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

no clue movie review - fred's 2010 oscar picks

It's Oscar Sunday! I like watching the Oscars. Not too many award shows that I still enjoy watching, but for some reason I always watch this one from beginning to end each year. I even watch the Barbara Walters Special. I hear this is her last year for that special. Anyway, not sure what the show will bring, but I always like to post my Oscar Picks.

This year I downloaded an official ballot from Oscar.com. You can too! I marked my picks with little stars and I think I did a pretty good job. District 9 for Best Adapted Screenplay could be a sentimental pick, but what the hell. Click on the picture to see my picks larger.
We'll see later today if I'm right.

I saw some of this year's nominated movies, but like every year I didn't see all of them. Here's a list of movies that I still need to see and want to see:
The Hurt Locker
Up In The Air
A Single Man
An Education
A Serious Man
Un Prophete
The Last Station
The Lovely Bones
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Julie & Julia
The Cove
Food, Inc.

There maybe more, but not sure. There are other movies that I didn't see too, but I may not see those at all. We'll see.

Now that you know what I didn't see, I thought I could give some mini-reviews of the nominated movies I did see this year.

Avatar: I absolutely loved this movie! Technologically, this is a masterpiece. What James Cameron is able to achieve with motion capture & animation is just brilliant. Brings this technology to a whole new level. I was able to feel completely immersed in his world as soon as the film began. I felt very connected to these characters and for the first time with motion capture the eyes of the characters really came alive. I mean Gollum in Lord of the Rings movies was fantastic, but this flick takes it to a whole new level. I think making this kind of a movie must have its appeal for actors as well in the same way an animated feature does. It's kind of odd to judge the acting, because some of it is enhanced by animation. Nonetheless, all the actors acquitted themselves well especially Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. This film's story is simplistic - big bad corporation trying to steal from the natives and exploit their land & destroy nature. There's also the boy meets alien and feels more comfortable outside of himself storyline. Even though I feel the story isn't overly complicated, doesn't mean it isn't effective. I enjoyed the story in and out and personally felt it held up to repeated viewings. I've seen it 3 times now in different formats and enjoyed each viewing. Take the technology away and it's a different flick, but it's not all technology that makes this movie enjoyable. This flick has made a boat load of cash and I say good for Avatar. A good movie that really exploits the immersion of IMAX 3D in a whole new way. I highly recommend this movie.

UP: Another fantastic Pixar movie. I don't know how they keep coming up with these stories, but I throughly enjoyed this movie too. Saw it over the summer and the beginning where Carl is thinking about his life & his wife. Ugh, I definitely choked up. The movie is very touching and is very simple in story. The relationship between Carl & Russell is so well done though. Just another fantastic movie. And in a totally different way from WALL-E or Toy Story.

The Blind Side: Sandra Bullock has had quite the year! She was hilarious in the screwball romantic comedy The Proposal. This movie is definitely a different side of Sandra that we don't see very often. How can you not love this woman? This story of Michael Oher & the Toughys (especially Leanne) has been documented as not being completely true to life, but as a movie I don't give a crap. This is a heart warming feel good movie. I was in tears in many different parts of this movie. This flick definitely celebrates family however you define it. I defy you to watch this and not be moved emotionally. That being said, it's not a perfect movie by any means. Some very simple versions of things, like Leanne Toughy marching into the ghetto on more than 1 occasion without incident. Big giant clumsy Michael becomes a football star after Leanne telling him to protect her. But I don't care. This movie was made by the same director as The Rookie and that movie with Dennis Quaid also moved me. Bravo! Good luck to Bullock on Oscar night and I hope she wins Best Actress.

Coraline: I went to see this movie and saw it in 3D. It was really good. It's definitely not a little kids movie, not that they wouldn't enjoy it, but I think it's mainly animation buffs that would appreciate it. It's very dark and reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas of course that Tim Burton Henry Selick combo. It's really nice storytelling and the animation was fantastic. I'm sure it was better in 3D, since that looked amazing. I appreciated that there weren't a bunch of 3D gags to pull you in, I believe the days of 3D being used as gags maybe over. Most 3D these days are used to just enhance the film and add to your cinematic experience. I do enjoy animation of all sorts but this kind of stop motion animation is not seen a lot these days and I really appreciated the detail that they put into this. If you enjoy animation, then you'd probably like this flick.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Not much to say about this popcorn movie. It's loud, has tons of cool explosions and lots of giant robots from the get go. It's not much of a story that's realistic anyway. Is it fun? Sometimes. It's a very similar movie to the first Transformers and has all the same players. And yes Megan Fox looks amazing. This isn't the kind of movie that holds up to repeated viewing. Shia LeBeouf, Josh Duhamel and others are fine, but this movie is about big budget effects and big robots. I think it's too long, but other than that it was OK.

Star Trek: I'm not a huge Trekkie, but I've always enjoyed watching these movies. This blows all those other Star Trek flicks out of the water. It pays homage to the original films and doesn't try to ignore their existence while still rebooting the franchise with the original characters from the original series and films. This isn't an easy task considering the history and the fans. I loved Chris Pine as Kirk. He's funny and heroic. He plays well with Zachary Quinto as Spock who's stoic, but also is conflicted. In fact the whole cast is great. Zoe Saldana looks amazing in this movie. I also liked how the filmmakers showed us some tidbits from Kirk & Spock's childhoods. This movie has it all. Action, effects, crazy worlds, time travel and lots of fun storytelling. I was hoping that this movie would get a nomination for Best Picture this year since there were 10 nominees, but I'm glad it's getting some technical recognition. I really enjoyed this movie and this is already a part of my Blu-Ray collection and it holds up well to repeated viewing. I can't wait to see where they take these characters next. It was a blast. This isn't just a movie for Trek fans, this is a movie for fans of good movies.

District 9: I really enjoyed this movie. It is an original piece of sci-fi that isn't always sci-fi. I loved that the effects were seemingly organic to the picture. I loved that the effects didn't feel like effects. Motion capture with those aliens I believe, and boy did it rock! The best motion capture I think since Gollum in Lord of the Rings (besides Avatar, since I hadn't seen that movie yet when I saw this movie). This movie was well acted, well scripted, extremely interesting and engaging. I liked that the mockumentary piece is there, but then kind of abandoned. It really is a truly inspiring well done movie. I would watch this many times over. If you haven't seen it, you should! Really glad to see this one in the Best Picture race, even though it won't win, it's cool to see it among the nominees.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Great effects. Beautiful looking film. I found it exciting and well executed. These movies are highly enjoyable for me. I must admit that I think the last 2 Potter films haven't been extremely faithful to the books, but that doesn't bother me so much since I feel like they can exist outside of each other. I loved reading this book for different reasons than I enjoyed the movie. I think the movie plays up the teen angst much more than the book. The book was a bit more dark and sinister I think. Was it the best Potter? No. But it was an enjoyable Potter. Liked this a lot better than Transformers this summer.

Inglourious Basterds: This was a really great movie. Not as much blood as I had assumed in a Tarantino movie. just the right amount of violence for me. Lots of quiet sections too which surprised me. Acting was good but as usual the writing was fantastic. The language and the time taken between actors to speak the words are pitch perfect. Christoph Waltz deserves the supporting actor win. I'd also like to see it win Best Original Screenplay. A must see for Tarantino fans and maybe for those who aren't. I think it's his best movie since Pulp Fiction.

The Princess and the Frog: Disney's return to traditional 2D animation. I thought this movie was great. Fun, romantic, heart warming. All in the style of the modern classic Disney movies. Music wasn't as memorable I don't think, but it was good. Story is more of a dreams come true and always follow your heart type of story. I just felt good after watching this movie. I don't think it was as good as UP, but better than most animated movies out there.

Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, but this film just wasn't fun enough. It was OK, but it just didn't hold up for me. I got bored in a lot of spots. I thought it was a great attempt at bringing a classic character to a modern day audience. But for the most part it fell a little flat for me. CG wasn't the greatest either. Action is a thumbs up though and saves this film from becoming a real snoozer. Great funny dialogue, but I think that is mostly Robert Downey's delivery. Probably the best Guy Ritchie movie in a long time, but that's not saying much since I didn't care for most of this other films.

The Messenger: I had a short post about this movie yesterday. A good flick, but overall disappointing and really depressing. Ben Foster delivers a great performance, but it doesn't go all the way since I felt a lot of it was one note and very angry. Woody Harrelson is great as the mentor and a former soldier who is at odds with his current profession and his attitude at living life. In the end, I didn't feel like over the course of the movie I learned too much more about these characters. I just kind of existed with them in an interesting set of circumstances.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire: I said it before I'll say it again. A powerful movie and some brave and bold performances by the actresses Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique. This is an excellent portrait of an abused teen and an unflinching look at families that just don't always make it. Blood is thicker than water is the saying, but in this film, escaping abusive family life is just as important in stopping the cycle of abuse. A very tough and hard movie to watch, but such an important one to see. Lee Daniels directs a masterpiece but one that will be tough for me to watch over and over again.

Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges delivers the performance of a lifetime! Bad Blake is a beat down drunk who is only a fraction of his former self. He is leading his life down a path of destruction until he falls in love with a reporter who changes his life. Fantastic original music overseen by T Bone Burnett and great delicate direction by newcomer Scott Cooper. Maggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic too and so are all the other performances. Again, this is a tour de force performance by Jeff Bridges and that carries this movie. If you haven't seen it, you should check it out.

Thanks for reading the reviews and I'm going to enjoy the Oscars tonight. I hope you do too.

no clue movie review: 2010 Spirit Awards - winners & impressions

I’m a Film Independent member so each year I get to vote for the Independent Spirit Awards. I usually watch the show too on IFC since it’s a breezy show and there’s an open bar and it’s always interesting seeing free booze and speeches mixing. Also, each year, since I do get a vote, I get to see all kinds of nominated movies. It’s usually a mixture of big exciting finds, lots of depressing films, some really lame boring movies that I can't wait to end and finally a few I actually had found on my own and really enjoyed. I thought I’d offer my comments on the winners, the show itself and the many nominated movies I saw and the ones that I still want to see.

You can get a list of all the nominees and winners here since I’m bound to not hit all the categories and movies.

Precious was the big winner. 5 nominations and 5 wins. Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best First Screenplay. The official film title is Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. This was an extremely powerful movie. It hit me seriously in the heart. It has fantastic performances by Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Sherri Shepherd, Mariah Carey & Lenny Kravitz and many more. Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious. An overweight illiterate teenager with an awful home life. Her whole life has been filled with horrific physical, mental and sexual abuse. It shows her struggle to put a life together for herself and her children. This movie is carried by the performances of Gabourey and Mo’Nique. They are powerful and for Mo’Nique - who knew she had that in her. She’s been getting tons of recognition for this role and rightfully so. The movie is amazingly tough to watch, but really should be watched. It’s raw and emotional and gut wrenching. I don’t know what else to say. This is the kind of powerful movie that I loved and may only watch it once. It’s that tough, but I would recommend it.

Crazy Heart won 2 Spirit Awards. It was up for 3. This movie was excellent too I thought. Not as tough to watch as Precious, but also featuring a really flawed lead character who undergoes a transformation. It deals with a country singer, down on his luck called Bad Blake. Bad is played by Jeff Bridges in what I would call a role of a lifetime that he was born to play. Brilliantly understated and tragic performance. You see Bad go through so much and out of those experiences some great music emerges as well. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall among others follow Bridges’ lead with their fantastic performances but this movie revolves around Jeff Bridges. It’s a fantastic little movie and I urge you to see it. And enjoy the music where Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell both sing too.

Winner for Best Screenplay was my favorite find of the Spirit Awards season - (500) Days of Summer. I had wanted to see this movie when it was in theaters, but I missed it. It was a truly fantastic movie and unlike Precious, this could be easily added to my DVD/Blu-Ray collection. Interestingly enough, it’s the type of movie that doesn’t normally get honored at the Spirit Awards. It’s funny, heart warming, unromantic romantic comedy. It was really well done, but it’s not your typical romantic comedy since it’s story telling is kind of all over the place. It’s a very non-linear story but it works so well and delivers so much emotion - laughter, tears, excitement - all kinds. It’s a really well done well written movie that everyone should watch. Great performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel among others. Gordon-Levitt has really made a name for himself in the indie film circuit. I’ve loved him in recent years in Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout and others. He was also in what I can only assume is awful, but haven’t seen it, G.I. Joe movie from last summer. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, but this is a fantastic movie in all regards and I look forward to watching it again someday.

Woody Harrelson won Best Supporting Male for The Messenger. He plays a soldier who notifies next of kin when a soldier dies. It’s an Iraq war drama about another soldier played by Ben Foster (who’s really good in this movie, but needs to show more of a range next time. Too angry all the time, even when he’s maybe looking happy. He was the kid in the Disney Channel series Flash Forward. He's also been in Six Feet Under and Freaks and Geeks.) who starts to fall for a widow of a deceased officer. This movie I found to be good. Not great. I think it’s a movie that is trying to say too much sometimes, not sure. Good performances and good story, but maybe a little too much of the same tough emotions all the time. I think the romance part was done well and brave to not go too far and stay poignant. Those scenes show real emotions but the characters only let you see what's on the surface. The rest is left up to the audience. This movie is worth watching, but it’s another tough and for me ultimately depressing movie even though I felt like the director tried to offer us hope at the end of the movie.

THE SHOW: I thought it was OK. Eddie Izzard was a bit crude and rude, but that’s Eddie Izzard isn’t it. Maybe a little too much polished looking show, but that isn’t 100% accurate. It was enjoyable and still moved at a good pace. I guess the polished part was that it’s starting to feel like a big awards show. They had a set this time and normally it’s just some podiums and a screen. Since it was on Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon, the mood was maybe a bit more glamorous too. Usually this is a T-shirts and jeans crowd, but they were all decked out this time around. I did miss the really corny singing silly songs about the nominated features. I always hated that, but found myself missing it. All in all, it was a fun show I guess. Maybe uneven. OH, and my one pet peeve was the fact that everyone kept saying “independent film” like it was some sort of virus. Once I’d like to watch this show and have them talk about the movies as movies. I understand that they want to highlight that a lot of these movies are done on small budgets and outside of the standard studio system. But most of the winners get released in theaters by Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate, etc. These aren't movies we only saw at festivals. Maybe if we just stuck to the idea that these are good movies that deserve to be celebrated and people should go out and see them or watch them on DVD. I did like the fact that I felt like we got to see more clips this year of the movies, so if you hadn’t seem them, then maybe you were intrigued by the clips to go seek them out.

Overall, I guess the movies this year were of a good quality. Here’s a few more mini-reviews of films that I got to see this year.

Amreeka: Great movie about a single mother moving to America from Palestine. Great understated movie about a family struggling to realize the American dream and caught between the culture they knew and the world they live in. Really a movie concerned greatly with identity. Well done and deserves a look. Nisreen Faour is a great find of an actress and there a lot of good performances by actors I had never seen. (Except Maeby from Arrested Development)

Paranormal Activity: Good little low budget psychological horror. I had seen this one in theaters in October. I thought it was a good movie with OK performances that scared the bejesus out of me. It’s one of those horror movies where you don’t see any blood or killing, but it’s what you don’t see that’s interesting. I left the theater feeling kind of nauseous. I find that the mark of a good flick. The problem is that this movie will probably not repeat well since the shock of it all has worn off. Who knows. Big indie hit though. Hope the filmmakers and actors get more opportunities after this.

Easier With Practice: This is a fucked up little film. The story of a guy on a book tour who receives an anonymous phone call from a woman in a hotel room and he continues on with a phone sex affair with her that kind of takes over his life. It’s whacked out and weird! Creepily enjoyable though. Shot with the RED camera it looks great. It’s also fairly well acted and feels like you’re watching real people. It’s worth a look, but the tagline for this movie would never had got me to watch it. Luckily, they sent me a DVD. The director is someone to look out for in the future. His name is Kyle Patrick Alvarez.

Zero Bridge: This movie deserves a mention for many reasons. It’s a fascinating movie. Shot by a director, Tariq Tapa, with a camera and no other crew and a bunch of non-professional actors in the war torn region of Kashmir. It deserves a look by anyone who likes watching different kinds of movies (notice I didn’t say “independent”). It’s a slow moving story, but riveting and held my attention. I wanted to know more about these characters throughout the movie and after the movie I thought about it for a few hours still. Interesting flick.

Humpday: I just didn’t get it. It was boring, seemed like interesting people having stupid conversations. I did find a few scenes humorous, but not enough to say go see this movie. It won the John Cassavetes Award for best movie made for under $500,000. This is one of the “mumblecore” movies. It’s the story of 2 straight guy friends that decide to make an amateur gay porn film. Again, I just didn’t get it and I was bored the whole time. Stars Mark Duplass of The Puffy Chair. Another flick I just didn’t get.

The Vicious Kind: This was a movie filled with good performances, but sadly for me, the movie wasn’t good. It was just an all negative portrayal of family life. The characters were too screwed up and to me did things that didn’t match themselves. Actors Adam Scott (he was in Party of Five), Brittany Snow (gorgeous girl from American Dreams & Hairspray (2008) ) and others are good, but can’t save this depressing ugly movie.

October Country: Real life family that have a lot of problems. Delicate and beautifully filmed movie that doesn’t ever seem exploitive, but is really depressing. Just reminds you of all the crazy things that can happen in your family. I recommend seeing it, especially if you like family portrait documentaries. Just don’t do a double feature day with this and Precious.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil: Winner of Best Documentary, this is a great real life film. Good find! It’s the story of a Canadian heavy metal band that was very inspirational to a lot of bands like Metallica & Slayer but never hit the big time. They struggle to bring new music to their audience. It’s really an inspirational story about never giving up and always keep working toward your dreams. I highly recommend this movie. Great movie and makes you want to bang your head to some heavy metal hard rock music.

Here’s a few movies that I haven’t seen yet, but want to:
Sin Nombre, The Last Station, Two Lovers, A Serious Man, A Single Man, The New Year Parade, Big Fan, Adventureland, Cold Souls, Downloading Nancy, Goodbye Solo, Fifty Dead Men Walking, That Evening Sun, Gentleman Broncos, Me and Orson Welles, An Education, A Prophet, Food, Inc., and More Than A Game.

Thanks for reading some mini-reviews and I’ll post my 2010 Oscar Picks tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Converting Audio Cassette Tapes

I have been spending time converting some old audio cassettes these last few months. It takes a long time, but I’m discovering some old music that I didn’t even know I had. Some of it, I can’t believe I ever bought. My basic reasoning is that I’ve spent a lot of money on music in my lifetime and a lot of that was on audio cassette. Just like ditching some of my old CD’s after digitizing into iTunes, I decided it was time to dig into the cassette box and start doing the same thing. I don’t even have a cassette player in my apartment, but I do have one in my car still. I have decided to keep a little more than a dozen. Big albums from my youth that I felt like keeping. Like Van Halen’s 1984. I have that on CD now, but I wanted the cassette. That was the first cassette I bought with my own money and I bought it the same day with Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil. Man, I remember playing them on my stereo and walkman and being extremely excited that day. Anyway, I decided to keep a few of them. I’m thinking putting them in a box or something to display. Like , look kiddies, grandpa used to listen to these and didn’t have an iPod growing up. That kind of thing.

Anyway, the process is kind of time consuming, but fun. The recordings into iTunes could be better, but they work. I mean these are songs that I don’t feel like purchasing in iTunes, but would like the option of keeping the music in my library of tunes.

I’m using CD Spin Doctor, which is a Roxio product. I’ve got my parent’s old stereo cassette deck which they weren’t using. I hooked that up to my trusty iMac and recording into CD Spin Doctor through the line in port on the Mac. Then after importing into CD Spin Doctor, I can adjust the track lengths and add track names. I add some De-Hisser to get rid of most of the cassette tape hiss and pops. After that, I can easily send it to iTunes and encode it as AAC files. Brilliant! I find the quality acceptable. It doesn’t sound as good as an iTunes download or a CD rip, but it’s acceptable. I did try a few experiments and for 2 or 3 recordings I adjusted the stereo configuration and added filters in Final Cut Express, but ultimately, it didn’t sound that great either. 

In the end, I’m just happy to listen to some of this music which I haven’t heard in ages and some of it isn’t available in iTunes. Like Mike + the Mechanics Living Years record. A bonus, is recycling these tapes at my recycling center and getting rid of some clutter. Always nice to do that. 

I’m off to do some more. Next up is MC Hammer’s classic Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

i love you apple - but what should I do?

I really would like a new computer. I am the proud owner of a G5 Power PC iMac and I have absolutely loved it over the last several years. I bought it in 2004 pre-iSight integration. It’s been great. But the machine is getting older. It’s having issues. I had the repair from Apple a few years ago that fixed the constant automatic power downs. In the last few days though, I’ve noticed it again - not constant, just every now and again when I’m not using the computer - it’s just sleeping, and fear after reading some posts online that the same issue is starting to resurface. It’s also a lot slower than it used to be and can’t take advantage of some of the new software that is out there for the Intel based Macs. I’m using all this as a good excuse to start looking at a new computer. I considered it last year, but I felt I couldn’t really afford it. Now I believe that I just need to invest in it. I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of this one, but Apple has lots of new toys to choose from nowadays and what to do? I love Apple products and I guess I’m a fanboy now. I gave my parents my old G3 iMac a few years ago and that baby is still ticking. I bought that one in 2000. My first new computer. As you can see, I won’t consider any other type of computer. I'm not buying a PC or a scrawny little netbook at this point.

But do I go iMac again?? Those nice shiny 27 inch iMacs look amazing! I would love one. I keep asking myself, do I need the power of that quad core iMac or is a stock model good enough for me? I always like more power. Not sure if I really use it. I do like working on graphics and video, but haven’t in awhile. Is it because my G5 iMac not working well and it takes way too long, or is just me not taking the time to do it? Ugh! Decisions.

I’ve also found myself using computers on the go a lot more. My work computer is exclusively a laptop (PC though - Ugh!) and I want to consider a laptop as my primary machine at home, but not sure if I’ll miss the desktop experience. Not sure what that even is but will I miss a larger screen? Something tells me if I plunk down some serious coin for a nice shiny new Macbook Pro, I don’t think I’d spend money right away on a nice external Apple Cinema Display. Ooooh, that would be nice though.

Plus, now that Apple has the shiny new iPad out there, maybe that could serve as my inexpensive portable computer? I mean I really want one of those babies, but do I really want a laptop and an iPad? I know that my overlord of technology that I love is Steve Jobs and he says that this is a new device category that I need, but I’m trying to think of why I’d lug around an iPad and a laptop on a vacation or just on an airplane. I was impressed with the iPad presentation and think it would fit in well with my life and my line of iPods and iPhone. I do a lot with my iPhone that I never thought I would so maybe the iPad would satisfy that laptop experience?? Plus, it looks all cool and Star Trek like.

Once I get the new computer I’m going to upgrade my Airport too. I feel a new computer deserves a newer wireless router too. Maybe not right away, but maybe soon. Or maybe right away. Man, it’s not like i have a few thousand sitting around, but I do really want this stuff. I guess I don’t buy new computer equipment or computers often enough. Maybe I'm just a gadget freak and haven't gotten enough new gadgets to play with. The glow of the iPhone 3GS only lasts so long.

I’m really perplexed. Any suggestions? I know in my heart that I can’t get an iMac, an iPad and a Macbook Pro, so don’t even offer that as a suggestion. I’ve definitely considered it (I crunched some numbers) and that’s too much money for me at this time to even think about spending. How about suggestions for re-purposing my G5 iMac. Should I strip it down and use it for something else? Or is it time to donate it to some organization that is more interested in fixing these power supply and hardware concerns? Computers feel like big purchases to me and they always make me nervous. But I always love it when I get them.

My parents could really use a new computer too. That G3 iMac is managing a ton of iPods and some other portable media devices that aren’t as good. They need something new to Skype or iChat with too. I think laptop is the way to go for them. I’m just trying to decide if I get them a standard Macbook or a Macbook Pro. I mean, when I’m back home I will use it, so it might as well be something I like too. I’ve also thought about not spending as much money on them and getting them a simple netbook PC computer. GASP! I know, but I wouldn’t be using it as much. But I like the Mac idea since they are already using iTunes on a Mac and an upgrade of that process would be nice for my nieces too. My sister got an iPod shuffle for Christmas and the thing wouldn’t even mount on the G3. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic machine still. Just slow at stuff and really showing its age. 10 years for a $1,000 computer though is really good I think.

OK, thanks for reading, if you have any suggestions, please email or leave me a comment on the blog. I will continue torturing myself with ideas until I just break down and buy something. Maybe wait for the next product cycle though......we’ll see.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2Do List App for iPhone - Love it!

I love my iPhone, but as a task manager it sucks. I can add To Do’s in iCal on my Mac, and then I can awkwardly sync them in MobileMe, which then allows me to see them on my iPhone. UGH! It’s a sucky workflow and I hated it. It made me not use my iPhone to actually track any to do’s which I thought was a silly waste of my iPhone’s power. I mean I can watch The Matrix on it, but I can’t have it remind me go get milk?!?! I was looking for a cool app to help me with that. I love the iPhone apps. they are usually great. or just silly, but always fun. I took a look at a lot of To Do lists apps, but a lot of them wanted me to just use their website or their interface only on the phone. I was really looking for something that allowed me to use the simple iCal interface and not have to use MobileMe to make a duplicate of it. I looked around for some ideas and found a great list of apps on Macworld’s website. I checked them out. Some were expensive, but there were at least 4 or 5 that would do what I wanted. I took the recommendation from Macworld and decided to try 2Do List. There was a free trial which allowed me to check out the interface and use it a little. I tried to get it to sync with iCal and then I realized they don’t let you do that in the free version. Makes sense I guess. It’s a big feature as far as I was concerned. So after playing with the free version for a few days, I decided to buy the full version. It was only $6.99. I really like it. It syncs with iCal over WiFi. This makes it nice, since I can sync my To Do’s at home without having to sync my iPhone. I really only sync my iPhone once every week or 2, so I like the feature of syncing over WiFi. I can do this in the morning or at night and stay really up to date. I find that being able to review my to do list every day on phone makes me a little more accountable and I like being able to see what I’m working on. It also has a fun little scribble out motion when that makes me think of making a paper list and checking it off. Very satisfying and not a waste of paper. I also like that it saves all my info in the app and syncs to iCal even when the tasks are completed. It also has a fun little feature of making things into a project and not just a to do. I’m just starting to play with that. This isn’t supported in iCal, but it will generate into a list in iCal. All the notes on each to do are always saved in iCal too which is really beneficial for reviewing later.

All in all, I really enjoy the app and encourage you to take a look if you’re looking for similar iCal syncing and simple features like I was.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

lack of ambition?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted to this blog. I’ve been wondering what the reason for that is. Is it simply a lack of time? Or is it a lack of ambition? I’m not sure. The dictionary definition of ambition is “an ardent desire for rank, fame or power” or “desire to achieve a particular end”. I think this is somewhat true. I’m not sure I desire fame and power, but I do need to feel worthy and I have goals in life to work toward. Why do I not constantly work toward my goals?

I do know that I don’t seem to have as much time for myself as I did a few years ago. I started this blog as a way to get some new content to our indenation website. It was easier than constantly writing code and lots of people are writing blogs now, so why not me. Jon and I haven’t done too much with the site since “special night” ended its run, so we’re calling it a day with that project. I started doing some archiving of a lot of that site content recently and I was fondly recalling those projects. They aren’t the greatest gems of cinema, but I do remember that I really enjoyed doing them. I’m also really proud of them for what they were at that time for me. I’ve never felt like I knew what I was doing, but maybe that’s what it’s all about. Never really knowing how to do anything and working toward something. Maybe life is just that in general.

Regardless of what it all means, I know that I’m going to try to do some writing this year. Last year was a hard year personally and I didn’t do any writing or video work at all. I posted some blog posts, but I never really sat down and did much beyond that. But at least I did that. I think my goals are smaller than they may have been in the past, which is why I’m feeling like I have a lack of ambition, but at least there are some goals to work toward. I really wish I was a rich and famous filmmaker but I’m not. I don’t deserve to be either because I haven’t put the work into that. I have a great job at the Walt Disney Company and I’m very grateful for it. I enjoy working there and I love my work. It’s surprising to me really when I think about it. I never thought I’d end up doing what I’m doing, but I love it. BUT, I also enjoy writing, film/video and website stuff too. I’m not sure I’ll ever regain the ambition of my 20’s and maybe I never really had as much as I thought. Deep down the one thing I haven’t lost is a dream. A dream of one day writing and making a movie and being able to see it in a theater. If I can do that before I die, then I’ll be a happy camper. But at the very least, I want to keep trying to do it.

I guess what this all means for this blog, is not too much. I still plan on writing in it and hopefully more posts will happen this year. I have a list of ideas that I’d like to write about and I will try to make time to make that happen. A little bit at a time. What this means for my filmmaking and writing endeavors, I’m not sure. I know that I want to try to write a sci-fi story that I have in my head, so I’ll try to make some time to start on that. I’ve never tried one and I love that genre of film/TV shows. Beyond that who knows? I have a couple of short video ideas, that I never finished from the last couple of years. Maybe I’ll work on some of that. I want to keep my nocluefilms.com website going. I want to do more projects and am especially interested in writing right now. I guess it’s just important to keep some level of ambition. I know I can’t be gung-ho in all areas of my life at the same time and I have a lot going on. But taking a few minutes a day for me to write and work on things I love is important to do.

As far as no clue production news, I guess this blog is it right now. Thanks for reading my blah blah blah & general ramblings. I’ve added new twitter and facebook widgets to my blog to help you stay up to date on even more of them. Hopefully more are on the way soon.