Thursday, December 23, 2010

Skype Outage

If you are reading this article, probably you've been one of the million users who have been surprised with the absence of their favorite service since yesterday. The Skype outage should have been quite unpleasant for a huge number of people around the world but at the same time for the Skype company itself.

For me, it has always been strange how the vast majority of people easily change their taste and how people embrace even unnecessary new stuff. Do you still remember ICQ? A friend of mine has told me recently that he is not using ICQ anymore because everyone he knows is already on Skype. Of course, I have been watching myself this unneeded but understandable trend since a long time. And I have somehow expected that such a Skype outage or something like it could happen. But whether it is also the beginning of the end for Skype?

So, Skype is a great piece of software... for people that want to talk between each other. But the truth is there are probably several times more folks using it just for chatting when there are a lot of other instant messengers offering a better service for such a purpose. I can understand the users (it's more convenient to have everything in one place instead of using several similar software programs). And I can also understand the company - every company wants to have more users. But does it always worth?

At least until now, Skype does not seem very profitable software. Sure, I have also been wondering why eBay has bought it. And I haven't found the right answer yet. It seems that eBay also haven't been able to found the answer...

Anyway, for whatever reason everybody uses Skype. Probably, there are lots of people that do not know some facts about it. And these facts are not very good... The first one is that Skype does not use some central server to do all of the job. It uses the computers of its users to distribute the load of serving millions of people. Of course, this lowers the performance of your machine. Maybe you have already noticed it.

A second thing and probably related to the first one is that the messages you send to offline contacts of yours are practically not delivered until you and the recipient of the message are both online simultaneously. This means, it could happen and it happens quite a lot that some of your messages are not delivered for days (although you and your recipient could have been online multiple times during that period of time but never simultaneously). Now, this is really unpleasant.

Many people are using Skype without knowing about these "features" and without using it for live talking purpose. At the end, in Skype's case, more users could mean more trouble without more profit. And I think, there is some truth in such a statement.

So, the Skype outage will most likely stay in the past and the normal work will be restored for the time being. But having in mind that the company is not quite profitable and that as a result of the recent Skype outage more money would be probably invested in order to decrease the risk of this decentralized distribution of the working nodes, maybe the company's future is not so bright. And there is another peril for Skype coming from Facebook that pretty much could take a lot of Skype users away, the same way Skype has taken away users from ICQ. The time will show how Skype will continue its lifecycle and meanwhile, you have in mind not to grab every new and fancy thing showing itself on the horizon.

And by the way, Facebook is one of the most user unfriendly phenomena out there. But then again, people are strange...

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tron Legacy (2010): Go See the Latest Tron Movie

Tron Legacy
In a nutshell, TRON: Legacy has a laughable script. Go see the spectacle!

TRON is a legend. Although some people considered it boring upon its initial release and it did not make miracles at the box-office, the TRON movie created concepts some of which were later explored in movies like The Matrix, Dark City or The 13th Floor. It spawned and prophesied viewpoints and space presentations later replicated in real-time 3D engines. And pioneering CGI into movie production is a remarkable feat. But the original TRON movie provides for visuals so outdated, they are almost painful to watch nowadays. That is the downside of trying something new out but TRON compensated for it with an inspired vision and imaginative design.

Enters TRON: Legacy - a rumored 300 million dollar sequel. Naturally, a comparison entails:
  • Tron was innovative. Legacy is dull.
  • Tron was playful. Legacy is serious.
  • Tron was wonderfully internally consistent. Legacy is disjointed in its pseudo-sophistication and superficial philosophy.
  • Tron emphasized adventure. Legacy goes to pathos.
  • Tron thrived on geekiness, (then) rising videogame and computer slang. Legacy is restrained and even kind of awkward about its heritage.
In addition, TRON: Legacy has a cringeworthy script, an eyebrow raising macguffin in the form of the isomorph(s), and subpar acting...

At last, here come the reasons why you should go see it at a movie theater:
  • The elegant and minimalistic designs presented in TRON, subject themselves to 3D in a remarkable fashion.
  • Legacy follows the aforementioned TRON designs quite faithfully.
  • This is probably the first movie since Avatar with 3D visuals done right.
  • Obi-Dude Lebowski. "You are messing with my Zen thing, man!"
  • Music is fantastic. Let's thank the god of film soundtracks for the lack of the ever-popular Zimmer-like crap.
  • Michael Sheen's character. Cyberpunkish worlds never do without an extravagantly crazy character. It is one cliche that should be perpetuated. Amen.

So, if you haven't seen this movie yet, do not miss it cause although it's not the most intelligent piece of cinema out there, TRON: Legacy is a feast for your senses.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Beatles Achievements: Part I

The Beatles' Abbey Road
It has been well-known for years that the Beatles are the most successful band in the history of rock. Maybe, it's not so known that they are widely considered the most influential band ever. And definitely, it's much less known what the Beatles achievements are in fact.

John Lennon met Paul McCartney at one of the Quarrymen's performances in 1957 and Paul showed him how to tune a guitar. You should know the rest anyway so we are not going to tell you the story of the most famous Liverpool rock band. Instead, we'll try pointing out how much those boys grew up and evolved since that lucky for mankind meeting event happened. With some of the band's greatest musical achievements and influence over the rock history we hope at the end, you'll have at least a small idea what the rock world has got with the Beatles and that it would never be the same without them.

A self-contained rock group
Have you noticed that there are still some performers that do not write their own songs but rather play somebody else's material. This tendency depends on the genre or the country, which the performer is coming from but in general such artists are not a rarity. Well, 50 years ago, it was nearly a rule for the rock bands: almost no band performed its own songs. So, in that time (1963) the Beatles released a first album containing 8 (out of 14) songs written on their own. They continued in this direction and when the time for their third album A Hard Day's Night came in 1964, the record was completely compiled of material written by the band members. To stress that fact, note, that it was 1964 again when the Beatles' main competitors in the 60s, the Rolling Stones, issued their first album and it was almost entirely comprised of songs written by other authors. Elvis Costello said about the Beatles: "They made writing your own material expected, rather than exceptional."

Rock music as international phenomenon
While nobody denies that rock music came from the United States, the British Invasion was the force that made rock internationally popular music genre and established the basis for rock to become the most successful musical monster ever. Of course, the British Invasion started with Beatlemania and sure, the main suspects for the latter were the Beatles. Their first album Please Please Me, loaded with infectious melodies and harmonies topped the British charts for 30 weeks. It was replaced at the top slot by With The Beatles, their second LP record. The latter stayed at the top of the charts for 21 weeks helping for the total of 51 consecutive weeks in which the quartet held the 1st place on the album charts. The United Kingdom had been constantly amazed for a year when the time for conquering the world came. The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 and Beatlemania arrived in the United States too. It was spreading so fast and widely that in the first week of April 1964, the Beatles had the top five spots on the best-selling singles charts in the States plus the first two entries on the album charts with other entries spread throughout the Billboard Top 100 also. They became monstrously popular all over the world and they traced the route for other British bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Animals, the Who, etc. to storm and take the USA and the whole planet almost effortlessly.

Read the second part of our article by following the link The Beatles Achievements: Part II.

The Beatles Achievements: Part II

Read the first part of our article by following the link The Beatles Achievements: Part I.

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Studio Masters
The Beatles had incredible success with their live performances. The latter were a major part of Beatlemania with their fans behaviour being rather hysterical throughout the band's concerts. Yet, the Beatles stopped their live performances at the middle of their (short) career. It was an unprecedented step and it was seen like the end of their existence but in fact, it was mostly due to their frustration of hysterical fans around them and their wish to have more time for studio recordings. And they used that time well by pioneering advanced techniques and multi-layered arrangements. They experimented with distortion, backward taping, 12-string electric guitars, multi-tracking, unconventional (especially for rock music) instruments like sitar and mellotron, avant-garde electronics, orchestral arrangements and many other techniques and stuff while at the same time not abandoning memorable melodies throughout their whole career. All those pioneering efforts immensely helped rock/pop music to become regarded as Art.

Pushing the limits
With the Beatles being extremely popular even at the dawn of their career they had nothing to prove commercially or in terms of chart positions. So, they began constantly expanding the rock genre boundaries. With albums like 1965's Rubber Soul and 1966's Revolver they (together with Bob Dylan) were hugely influential on folk-rock music and bands like The Byrds. With their 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band considered to be one of the best rock albums of all time they defined psychedelic rock although other bands had used psychedelic elements in their recordings before the Beatles. The 1968's song Helter Skelter could be considered not only a hard rock attempt but even a heavy metal recording. The band (successfully) experimented in many other stylistic directions and that as well as their technical studio achievements frustrated many of their contemporary competitors not able to be on the same level, including the Beach Boys' mastermind Brian Wilson.

Forever Strong
The Beatles achieved everything in just 7 years of recording and 4 years of live performing (if not counting their pre-1963 years). They sold 3 times more albums in the United States compared to the Rolling Stones' album sales over a 6-7 times longer career and that's valid almost in the same proportions if comparing them to the King of Pop Michael Jackson. Yet, this is not the "achievement" we have in mind. The real one (although hardly made intentionally) is that they left a catalog of songs and albums that is uniformly strong in its entirety. It's really hard to point something weak in their works. Of course, this is partly because of the group's early split and thus the lack of time for decline of their career but then again even genius people should have a little "luck" in order to become legends.

So, we've acquainted you with the Beatles' achievements, which we think to be among their most important ones for the development of pop and rock genres. You might have guessed that they have also many other contributions to the music world as well as some not directly related with music. Of course, your guess is totally right but we're not going to list any other of the Beatles accomplishments here. However, if this article has kindled your interest, you probably will find enough additional information on your own.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Star Wars Prequel Trilogy Faults

Star Wars image
Find short reviews of the prequel trilogy movies here.

After listing some reasons about Star Wars success recently, we are now making a short and pretty much inevitable list with Star Wars prequel trilogy faults. Many of the listed points will contain comparison with the original Star Wars trilogy but this is something to be expected.

1. The prequels were quite complex and a lot harder for following and good understanding than the original trilogy.

2. There were many unrealistic events (even for a sci-fi movie) - Jar Jar becoming a deputy of Padme and Anakin's almost unprovoked "journey" to the dark side are just a few of the many issues of the prequel trilogy that made it looking very unbelievable.

3. The music in the prequels did not offer anything new and easily memorable.

4. Digital creatures brought more distant and unrealistic feel of the movies. In addition, by the time the prequels were released we had already seen a lot of digital creatures.

5. Han Solo was missing. A big minus for the prequels. :)

6. The genuine Darth Vader or an equivalent character was missing. Anakin had no such a strong presence at all, neither had it anyone on the dark side.

7. Yoda was there, but he was not the mystical Dagobah character... In the prequels, he was really just a flying ridicule. For fans of the original Star Wars trilogy it should have been rather disappointing to see him like this.

8. There were no likeable creatures like Ewoks for example. Instead we had Jar Jar's people and wookiees but even wookiees were not really sympathetic in the prequel movies.

9. The prequels were trying to tell a story that almost everybody had already known for years (at least the main storyline).

10. There were high expectations for the prequels that were not met. It led to further overall disappointment.

11. After lots of sci-fi movies had been released since the original trilogy, there was nothing so special and unique to be shown in the prequels' universe.

12. The prequel Star Wars series had a storyline limited by the purpose to comply with the original Star Wars trilogy.

13. The "classic archetypes" based story from the original trilogy was somehow blurred in the big mess of events in the prequels.

14. The love subplot was unrealistic and not funny.

15. There were not any unexpected twists in the prequel Star Wars movies.

16. There was nothing genuinely funny in the prequels. There were less entertaining characters compared to the original movies and the fun stuff was something already seen many times.

17. The prequels were pretty much a Star Wars rip-off (as a lot of other sci-fi movies).

18. It wasn't the right time for the prequels. They should have been released many years ago (if released at all!!!).

19. There was an annoying biblical reference - Anakin having no father.

20. The Force was demystified with an unnecessary explanation about midichlorians.

21. There was not real tension in the prequel series even the first time watching them because the main storyline was pretty much clear.

22. Episodes I-III practically ruined almost every character from the original Star Wars movies that was presented in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. From such a perspective, it should be good Han Solo was not in the prequel movies.

23. There were a lot of redundant characters in the prequels. Count Dooku, General Grievous, Darth Maul were all unnecessary - for their brief screen appearances, nobody of them established himself as a real movie villain or at least as an important figure in the story.

24. It was rather strange, that nobody became aware of the Palpatine's evil plan. And this was while there were dozens of Jedi in the Star Wars prequels. At the same time, without any Jedi in their rows, the rebels in the original Star Wars trilogy were constantly aware of the plans of the Empire.

25. A lot of other reasons could be added to the list but since it is not quite a pleasure doing it, I am leaving this spot for you - if you want, put your own reason here why the Star Wars prequels were so disappointing for you (if you think they were)...

At the end, while we cannot say that the Star Wars prequel series are unsuccessful (they have earned quite a lot of money), they have so many issues that will not allow them to become such a classical experience what the original Star Wars trilogy has become.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prizzi's Honor (1985): A Subtle Parody by John Huston

Prizzi's Honor
Whether Prizzi's Honor has been intended as a subtle parody is beyond the author's ability to know but let's look at it like that because it is the only sensible way to look at this movie if you don't want to call it a failure. Prizzi's Honor is a film with good acting for the most part and it is coming from a very renowned director what John Huston is. Yet, the movie lacks an overall sense of believability and it does not convince us it tells a story that could actually happen. Because of that it is better to consider the film a parody.

Prizzi's Honor is about Charley Partanna (Jack Nicholson), a professional hit-man working for the Prizzis, one of the biggest and richest East Coast mafia families. He falls in love with Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner) which is a hit-woman but this is a fact still unknown to our hero. It appears that Irene has worked with the Prizzis as a free-lancer. In addition, it seems that Irene might have been involved in some affairs not welcomed by the Prizzis. Naturally, problems appear. To make them worse, some unpleasant events accidentally happen which complicate matters more. But the worst is yet to come as both of them receive some painful to fulfil orders by the family godfather Don Corrado Prizzi (William Hickey) and his son while the Don's granddaughter Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston), a former Charley's lover, does not hesitate to make everything even trickier for the couple.

Having Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston and Kathleen Turner in Prizzi's Honor's cast presupposes strong acting. And in fact, acting is the most acceptable side of the movie. Nicholson and Turner are not convincing as professional killers but it is mainly due to screenplay issue and not because of their skills. Anjelica Huston does not have a lot of screen time but it seems it has been enough to grant her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film has garnered 7 more Oscar nominations but some of them are disputable, especially the ones for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Writing.

Prizzi's Honor begins and ends very improbable. A man falls in love and is convinced he has found the love of his life in just a few minutes. A woman cheats one of the most powerful mafia families in the country, yet she does not try to hide and even puts herself in the family's paws. Concerning the screenplay further, let's skip some of the ending's boners in order not to spoil the movie anymore. And as far as the directing adds to the film's lack of any clear vision and good storytelling details, Prizzi's Honor is definitely not among the best directed John Huston's motion pictures which is a pity since Huston has undeniably created some very enjoyable and important movies in the history of cinema.

One distinctive feature of Prizzi's Honor could be that it gains some momentum in the middle of the narrative and this does not happen so often. Usually, if a film is uneven, it is good at the beginning or during its second half but rarely sparks just in the middle. And it is exactly the case with Prizzi's Honor. Yet, this alone is not anything that could improve the movie experience considerably.

To be objective, the film possesses some charm if we consider it a parody. There are funny moments and there are some characteristics of a parody. But it is really a subtle parody. And for some reason, usually, subtle parodies do not work very well. If it's an obvious and even rude mock as Mel Brooks' ones, you either love it or hate it. But when it is a concealed skit, it most often loses its strength. Not that it's impossible a good subtle parody to be created but it is not the most common thing to happen.

You can still see Prizzi's Honor and find it enjoyable. At least Jack Nicholson stars in the film and he is someone that often could save a movie cause Nicholson is indisputably one of the greatest actors ever. But if you are in the mob films you better try something else, e.g., A Bronx Tale.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Harry Potter Movies - Why Are They So Successful?

Harry Potter image
Really, what makes the Harry Potter movies and Harry Potter characters so successful? I cannot actually answer that question. While it's quite easy to list a bunch of reasons leading to the Star Wars trilogy success, it is rather difficult for me to find good arguments in support of the Harry Potter series success. Thus, I will express just some of my observations based only on the movies (not on the books) but if somebody knows the secret clue I am overlooking, please share a comment on it.

Of course, although I'm not a fan of Harry Potter's, I can see some of the series' good aspects. The movies easily benefit from the fact that they are based on a very popular book series. This automatically provides the films with a huge fan base even before they have been released (while on the other hand, the books gain new followers inside the moviegoers circles). But there are also other popular books that have not led the corresponding movies to similar success so, there has to be something more about Harry Potter.

The movies have also some spectacular scenes that are nice to watch but at the same time many of exactly those scenes are completely unrelated to the Harry Potter main storyline. In general, the series succeeds to create its own world and it is beautiful on its own. But then again, we are in the 21st century already and such worlds are nothing unseen.

Also, I can understand the appeal of a young magician schoolboy and his friends fighting the bad guys or the appeal of a parallel fantasy world but again, this is not unprecedented stuff.

Many of the nice looking scenes are just there for the purpose of being there. And it's valid not only for the visually good scenes but also for many of the others. I suppose that the greater part of the narrative is coming from the Harry Potter books and maybe the original material is not suitable enough for a movie but if this is the case, then a better option would be to omit or change particular events. I think, in this aspect the Harry Potter series is very much alike the Star Wars prequel trilogy - quite chaotic and unfocused although the principal Harry Potter characters are the same in all of the films.

Another point that bothers me a lot is related to the non-typical narration in the Harry Potter movies. Although the "good" Harry Potter characters fight with something bad or evil in each of the episodes, it is very common for all of the films that there is not real tension in them. Usually the main "battle" in each Harry Potter movie finishes very quickly and is pretty much as routine as every other event happening in the series.

In addition, there are neither lots of funny scenes in the movies, nor there are some interesting love or other subplots to boost the interest in the series. Yet, the Harry Potter franchise is very successful and makes rivers of money. And it is successful internationally. In fact, compared to other movies, Harry Potter is even more popular outside the United States (where the main movie market is). This tendency is obvious if you go to the all-time box office section at IMDb - all of the first 6 Harry Potter movies are in the Top 20 of the All-Time Non-USA Box office (the 7th movie is also heading right there) and on the other hand, none of them is in the Top 20 of the All-Time USA Box office chart. I think there are also reasons for that situation and I'll probably make another post about Harry Potter's and other movies' box office performance in and outside the United States with some analysis in it. (Update: about the latter you may check our USA vs. non-USA highest grossing movies of all time comparison.)

In my personal opinion, the Harry Potter series started with a couple of not very convincing episodes. The 3rd and the 4th movie showed a little bit of improvement in terms of interestingness and entertainment but then again the previous unsatisfying level was reached with the next episodes. Of course, my opinion does not prevent the Harry Potter series to occupy the #1 spot on the highest grossing film series list, at least for the time being.

So, these have been my thoughts about the series and if somebody could share any good reasons explaining why the Harry Potter movies are so big, please do it and bring me out of the darkness.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Bronx Tale (1993): Robert De Niro's Directorial Debut

A Bronx Tale
It's strange A Bronx Tale didn't performed well at the box office. It has Robert De Niro in its cast and he is the director of the movie too. The characters are interesting. The story is simple but involving. The direction and camera work are also fine. The casting is good. Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri as well as Lillo Brancato give very solid performances. The film is a well-done gangster drama and it is definitely better than many other movies of the genre. Still, it was not a very successful motion picture in terms of box office performance.

A Bronx Tale is a coming of age story of Calogero 'C' Anello (portrayed by both, Lillo Brancato and Francis Capra). As a young boy in a Bronx neighborhood, Calogero witnesses a shooting with the participation of the local mafia boss Sonny LoSpecchio (Chazz Palminteri). Calogero has been fascinated by Sonny for a long time so he covers the mobster during the police investigation. As a result, a long lasting relationship between the boy and the gangster begins, which is not approved by Calogero's father Lorenzo (Robert De Niro). Lorenzo is an honest bus driver and he prefers his son to stay away from the mafia's doings instead of being constantly worried about the boy's life. Calogero spends the following years torn between both men's advices and his feelings are constantly challenged by his uncertainty what is the right thing for him. To make everything more complicated his coeval friends are involved in various mindless crimes and he falls in love with the wrong girl.

Both of the actors playing Calogero, Lillo Brancato at the age of 17 and Francis Capra at the age of 9, make their acting debuts in A Bronx Tale. And both of them perform the role quite good. You can almost feel Calogero's doubts through the screen in either of the both performances. Robert De Niro does not have the leading role this time (at least not in front of the camera) but he performs the father's part trustworthy. And Chazz Palminteri gives a very strong performance in the role of Sonny. Palminteri creates maybe one of the most likeable mafia bosses in cinema history while at the same time his character does not lack the needed portion of violence for being a successful mobster.

A Bronx Tale sports a bunch of impressive monologues and dialogues about life, love and mafia. There are also enough funny lines to make the film entertaining. The characters are multidimensional and there are several moments when you do not know what exactly will follow. Some of the speeches will probably stick to your mind for some time independently whether you think they are right or not. The music helps for the creation of an authentic atmosphere in the movie as well.

The screenplay of A Bronx Tale comes from Chazz Palminteri himself and it is a very good basis for the film. There are plenty of coming-of-age issues covered by the narrative and there are also some social problems of the time that are referred, e.g., the racist segregation. Robert De Niro makes a great directorial debut with this movie. He manages to capture the spirit of the 1960's Bronx and to present it in a likeable although a little bit romantic fashion. De Niro succeeds to transmit the characters' emotions in a very touching way so it's easy to relate with them even if you haven't dreamt of being a gangster.

A Bronx Tale has not been a great success in cinema theaters for whatever reason. But is a very successful film on its own presenting two good actors in different movie making roles. Both Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri deserve huge credit for making this film, which is likely to remain their best effort as director and screenwriter correspondingly. If you are a fan of mobster movies, do not miss this picture cause it is amongst the better ones in the crime genre.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Star Wars Trilogy: 33 Reasons Why Star Wars Movies Were So Successful and Became a Cultural Phenomenon

You can find short reviews of the original Star Wars trilogy movies here.

In 2010 the original Star Wars movie became 33 years old and in order to honor this anniversary we are listing 33 reasons why the trilogy is what it is. All of the points below refer only the original Star Wars trilogy or a particular movie from it. The prequel movies could be a matter of a separate (not so positive) list eventually.

Here goes the list, not ordered by importance or in any other particular order:

1. The original Star Wars trilogy was pretty simple to understand (unlike the prequels).

2. The trilogy had an actual story. It was not a chaotic mess of events.

3. The original 3 Star Wars movies were very realistic (for a sci-fi movies at least, and again unlike the prequels).

Star Wars image
4. The visual effects were really great (even compared to many of today's movies).

5. The sound effects were great.

6. The music was a perfect match to the narrative.

7. The music was outstanding on its own and easily recognizable and memorable.

8. The costumes were really cool, some of them becoming a definitive part of their corresponding characters.

9. The innovative textual opening of each movie contributed to the unique appeal of the series.

10. The trilogy had Han Solo. This should be self-explanatory. :)

11. The trilogy had Darth Vader. It's another self-explanatory point.

12. Yoda was there - the mystical character on Dagobah, not the flying ridicule from the prequel trilogy.

13. Ewoks were there contributing to the overall fun of the series and bringing something new in the somehow repetitive Episode 6.

14. There were not personal computers in every home yet - people still went to see a good movie multiple times.

15. Instead of playing electronic games many people were trying to play Star Wars roles live.

16. The 3 Star Wars movies were thought of as a whole and coherent story at one point (although not at the very beginning) and the 2 sequels were not made just because of the unprecedented box-office success of the first movie.

17. The initial sequel (The Empire Strikes Back) was of no lesser quality than the first Star Wars movie, if not even superior to it.

18. The trilogy was easily franchisable.

19. The backing Star Wars universe was in times bigger than the part of it shown in the movies and all of it was very well exploited commercially.

20. There were no high expectations if any for the first movie so it took the movie world by surprise multiplying the overall effect of its success.

21. It was a story created without pressure from a film studio, written by the author the way he wanted to be.

22. The original Star Wars trilogy was based on a simple "good vs. evil" plot with universal appeal. The movies were even shown in the socialist countries behind the "iron curtain".

23. The unique universe created by the original trilogy had not been reached even close by any other movie/series until then.

24. The trilogy builds up on classic archetypes - an evil Emperor magician, his "right hand", a princess in trouble, knights with swords and so on.

25. There was a love subplot presented not in a boring but in a rather funny and entertaining way.

26. The movies were populated by lots of interesting non-human characters never seen in a movie before.

27. The trilogy had one of the greatest twists in movie history - the good and naive Luke Skywalker found that the evil lord Darth Vader is his father.

28. The humor in the original trilogy worked very well - everything intended to be funny (like Han Solo, C-3PO, Yoda, etc.) was funny.

29. The movies were pretty optimistic, even the otherwise darker "The Empire Strikes Back" had optimistic touch.

30. The original Star Wars trilogy did not look like a Star Wars rip-off (as many other sci-fi movies including the Star Wars prequel trilogy did).

31. It was the right time. Obviously.

32. The force was with the Star Wars movies (but not ALWAYS, only for the original trilogy).

33. This is the spot where you are welcome to put your own reason why Star Wars is so special (if you think it is)...

Follow the subsequent link to read a list of Star Wars prequel trilogy faults or explore the Review Maze to discover other movie articles.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blu-ray Player Download

As you already may know there is not any (legal) free Blu-ray player software out there. The reason for that you can read here, where you can also find a more detailed five pages review of the BD players mentioned below. So, on this page, we are going to list all available for download software BD players we are aware of. Currently, there are 5 of them with the 2 options listed at the top being our preferred choices. Instead of downloading the software, you have the option to purchase a boxed version in most of the cases.

Cyberlink's PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Mark II / PowerDVD 11
If you prefer to make a Blu-ray player download instead of buying it as a box, you're most likely an Internet person and it's quite probable that you will like PowerDVD. It's the most online-oriented player of the bunch. You may read more about PowerDVD's online features and overall experience here and if you want to purchase it follow this link CyberLink's PowerDVD. Note, that in order to have BD playback capabilities you must buy PowerDVD's Ultra version.

ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5
Another player following the online path of PowerDVD 10 is ArcSoft's TotalMedia Theatre 5. Of course, you won't buy such software only because of its Web features so better read our TMT 5 review first. But still, if you're eager to get it, just go to TMT 3D Blu-ray player download page here. It seems that TotalMedia Theatre 5 software is the only one not having a boxed version.

Corel's WinDVD 2010 Pro
WinDVD, as well as the rest of the software listed below, is not in the league of our 2 top choices but you may still find it suitable for your needs. A short description of WinDVD is located here, where you will also find brief overviews of Roxio CinePlayer® BD with 3D and Nero's plug-in. If you want to download WinDVD here's the link for that purpose. Note that you need WinDVD 2010 Pro version if you want a support for 2D and 3D Blu-ray playback.

Roxio CinePlayer BD with 3D
Roxio is amongst the newest competitors on the BD playback arena but they already have a Blu-ray 3D player and although it's not the best, it still could be considered as a good value for money piece of software. Here's the link for Roxio's Blu-ray player download and note that you need CinePlayer BD edition in order to play BD movies.

Nero's Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in
Nero is the last competitor in this area. They don't have stand-alone software for BD playback. Instead, Nero have a Blu-ray Disc Playback plug-in compatible with some of their applications. Nero's software is the only one without 3D support. The plug-in is available with Nero Multimedia Suite 10 Platinum HD and Nero Video Premium HD. You may get either of them from this page and remember to select the right product carefully as there are many on Nero's store page without BD playback capabilities.

So, these have been all of the Blu-ray player downloads we are aware of. We hope, you've found what you've been looking for and we wish you to have lots of pleasant hours while watching your movies.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Easy Rider (1969): Not Such an Easy Ride to Take

Easy Rider
During the years Easy Rider has become a cult and classic movie. Probably it is the most important film in the careers of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. They both play leading roles in Easy Rider and in addition, the first one is the producer of the movie and the latter is the film's director. Hardly any other motion picture they've been involved in has had the impact of this one. It's also safe to say that Easy Rider has given the start of Jack Nicholson's tremendously successful career presenting him as a first class actor and bringing him the first of his 12 Oscar nominations. But despite all mentioned above, this movie is not easy to watch and many people will not like it.

Easy Rider is about two counterculture motorcycle riders, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), on their way from Los Angeles to New Orleans' Mardis Gras. It is a long way to go and during their trip they experience a lot of 1960's America. They make some fast cash with a drug deal, take hitchhikers, meet a bunch of hippies, stay briefly in prison, encounter a lawyer addicted to alcohol (Jack Nicholson), survive a night raid, visit a brothel, etc. They come across people's intolerance and hatred more often than they run into acceptance and love.

Easy Rider starts a little bit slowly as the events happening to the both bikers seem boring to an extent and not very significant. However, this could be intentional because the narrative becomes more intense and meaningful as the film progresses. And the appearance of Jack Nicholson's character, George Hanson, completely changes the situation spreading plenty of color and freshness over the bikers' trip. The movie could still look boring and dull to a big part of the audience since it is firmly situated into the 1960's and it involves some thinking and deeper perception in order to benefit from its watching.

Easy Rider is about freedom but "freedom" has a lot of faces. One may say that there is not a single entirely free person in the whole movie. George Hanson has an unrestricted mind but he is not free in his actions. Billy, although easy on the road, is under the sway of the money otherwise. And Wyatt, probably the most balanced of our characters, seems like not knowing what to do with his freedom and how to experience it in the best possible and satisfactory for himself way. Easy Rider shows a period of the American history which people have started with great hopes but it has quickly turned out to be just the next illusion.

Some reviewers assume that George Hanson represents the average American who simply does not dare to be "free" enough. But in fact, it's hard to believe the average US citizen is a lawyer and drinks so much that often spends his nights in jail. In addition, Hanson is rather clever and more intelligent than our 2 leading protagonists. He behaves strange and charmingly funny at times but this also does not make him an ordinary man. His line "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." summarizes the whole film.

The story, co-written by Honda and Hopper too, is quite simple in its entirety. The talking is limited but the audience is not left to experience the movie only visually cause Easy Rider has a great thematic soundtrack and most of the songs fit perfectly into the film. It is not a movie that's for everyone and especially today there are even less people that will appreciate it but if you are into classic films, you can watch it and see for yourself where its 60's cult appeal has come from.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inception Ending Interpretation

Although this article has a very similar title to a previous blog entry of mine, it is a different one actually. At the end of my recent post concerning various Inception ending interpretations I've mentioned a possible option that is quite rarely discussed on the web. In the succeeding days though, I've pretty much decided that the aforementioned interpretation is the most corresponding one to the events presented in the movie.

I have to say I do not insist that this Inception ending interpretation is the rendition the makers of the movie have intended to present. I'm just saying that according to the narrative and the characters portrayed in the movie, the treatment of the ending I'm going to write about seems to be the most flawless and rational one.

So, in a few words, the interpretation in question is the following: Cobb wakes up on the plane in the real world. But in contrast to many other opinions on the net interceding for the "not dreaming" ending theory, in my version there are not any technologies for controlling the dreams. The whole movie narrative previous to that point has been just an ordinary nightmarish dream.

Why is this theory feasible? I'm going to list some good points in support of it. Just have in mind that I'm not a big fan of Inception in particular (I'm just an overall movie fan) and thus, I'm not a die-hard fan of any Inception ending interpretation. I'm just trying to look at the movie in a logical way while taking in account it is not the average every day movie. I know that such a theory about the Inception ending won't be very popular because it seems quite an ordinary one to the most of the people and they prefer more unusual treatments but this is what I've seen while watching the movie. I do not think Inception will become a lower quality movie if we accept that there has not been a dreaming device and multi-layered dreams. Just the opposite, it could be thought of as an even cooler ending when we finally understand that it is all an ordinary dream after have been looking for 2 hours at the result of ultra advanced dreaming technologies and architectures. So, here we go...

What do we see at the end of the movie (since Cobb wakes up)?

1. Cobb wakes up. It is not shown that he has any dream device wires attached to him.

2. Cobb wakes up in a way he would wake up from an ordinary dream. If he has been in a controlled dream he shouldn't be so surprised waking up. In fact, if you have looked carefully, the rest of the characters waking up from various dream levels during the movie behave quite differently.

3. Fischer is on the plane with several people he is supposed to have been sharing his dreams with but there is not any reaction from his side that he knows any of them!

4. Nobody from the other team members demonstrates any concern about Cobb while looking at him on the plane. It is not very likely they stay so detached while waiting for their friend or colleague to come back from the "purgatory".

5. Saito makes a phone call to somebody but it is not necessarily related to Cobb.

6. At the airport, again there is not a sign that somebody has known anybody else from the "team" prior to the flight. There are just some looks exchanged, nothing unusual between a few people that have had a long flight together.

7. After passport control Cobb is welcomed by Michael Caine's character. This does not seem very likely to happen if there has been a real conspiracy (independently of who this character might be). It is far more likely to wait for somebody who is just coming home rather than somebody taking part in such an important operation.

8. In every scene since Cobb's awakening he behaves like a man who has just had a terrible dream and he is still wondering if the dream is over. We see him to be a little frightened or unsecured which is quite normal for a man having such a bad dream. And again, he behaves like a person who has just had an uncontrolled dream rather than a controlled one. He even spins that "totem" on the table but not to see whether it falls or not but more like a reminiscence of his dream on the plane.

What do we see before Cobb wakes up on the plane?

1. There is not almost any character development during the dreaming except for Cobb.

2. As some people already "complained" on several web sites - what is the reason the world created by Cobb and his wife not to be a more beautiful one. If it has been made in a long controlled dream it could be a real paradise but if it is just a part of Cobb's uncontrolled dreaming then it is just what it happens to be in the particular dream.

3. One would expect that each subsequent dream level would be more advanced and abstract. Quite strangely, you could not say this about dream level 3 compared to dream level 2. But if it is an uncontrolled dream then everything is fine and it just has happened to be like this.

4. The rules of dreaming were changed quite a lot during the movie. Again, this is not very likely for controlled dreaming. And it is completely Ok for an ordinary dream. In fact, ordinary dreams happen just like that - they take different directions constantly and they are quite unstable.

5. If we stick to the controlled dreaming theory then there are lots of weak points during the whole movie. But in the case of uncontrolled dreaming, all of them become immediately OK. For example, Saito was not intended to participate in the "team". They took him in just because he insisted. And then Saito is almost killed in dream level 1. Why would they bother to take him on the next dream levels in a controlled dream - just to make their task harder? But if it is just an ordinary dream of Cobb's, no problem, it just happened.

6. If you control dreaming, it would be normal to try to make it "right". And if it is not a controlled one, everything is possible. Now, it was said in the movie that dreams should look real so, the subject does not realize it's a dream. Ok, what "reality" do you see for Fischer in that snow shooting level? But if it is an ordinary Cobb's dream, again it has just happened like this.

I can continue this list but I think the idea is quite clear. The uncontrolled dreaming interpretation solves almost any possible problem in the movie... I know the controlled dreaming version is more charming but it is not the best one fitting what we have seen on the screen. Again, I'm not saying that Christopher Nolan has had in mind the ordinary dream rendition but this is what at the end, I and probably some other folks have seen presented on the screen.

It might be strange for some people that someone would introduce the whole dreaming technology and the whole complex story if it is all about an ordinary dream but why not... It makes the film really intriguing and during the whole dreaming process Cobb understands a few things about himself and the way he would like to live his life. So, it's still worth to pay that ticket price and see the movie - Inception is not less enjoyable even with such ending interpretation.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tootsie (1982): Enjoyable One-Man Show by Dustin Hoffman

Tootsie is a 1982 romantic comedy sporting a good "one man, two roles" show. It's not that the movie does not have any other virtues. In fact, it's the opposite. The film has several famous movie stars on its list (Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Sydney Pollack, Geena Davis). It has won an Academy Award (for Jessica Lange's acting) and additional 9 Oscar nominations. Tootsie's directing, screenplay and cinematography work are all just fine. But it's Dustin Hoffman's performance(s) that make(s) this movie a real gem.

Tootsie is about an actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) struggling to get good roles and having a reputation of not being easily manageable. He wants to raise money for himself and for funding a play of his friend (Bill Murray). After his agent (Sydney Pollack) has been unable to find a suitable job for him, Michael Dorsey decides to "become" a woman and apply for a female part in a daytime drama/soap opera. He turns into Dorothy Michaels, a not very nice looking middle-aged woman, and wins the aforementioned role. Dorothy becomes an inspiration for other women to rebel against men's control and demonstrate their individuality. Naturally, being a disguised woman leads to lots of issues and Michael/Dorothy finds himself constantly lying a female friend and "wanna be" lover (in Michael-mode), falling in love with a female co-star, Julie (Jessica Lange), who just likes Dorothy as a friend, being adored by Julie's father (in Dorothy-mode) and almost raped by a male co-star (in Dorothy-mode).

Tootsie has been deservedly nominated for Best Picture Academy Award which does not happen quite too often for a comedy. It brings out a good dialogue, some memorable lines, interesting situations and a lot of funny moments. Sydney Pollack shows very good acting skills and in fact, most of his scenes are amongst the best in the film. Bill Murray adds a coloring of his own to the overall presence of the movie. Geena Davis (in a minor role) and Jessica Lange are both beautiful while the latter has also won an acting Oscar statuette. But above all of these favorable Tootsie's characteristics stands out the performance of Dustin Hoffman.

Hoffman is doing a terrific job in Tootsie while simultaneously portraying Michael Dorsey and his transformation in Dorothy Michaels. He plays the role of the difficult to work with Michael quite naturally and convinces us that his character is not very well acquainted with the real world. He argues with his agent and directors, he lies a lot, he prefers to sleep with a girl instead of telling her the truth. And most of the time, he manages to do it authentically. On the other hand, he manifests even better acting skills while playing Dorothy. It is always hard to play a person from the opposite sex, especially when the audience is well aware of this fact. People are automatically tuned in criticism when they are watching a performance of such kind. But Hoffman succeeds almost entirely to detract our attention from any eventual faults and depicts his "tootsie" with more complexity than Michael. Dorothy behaves as a rough woman when she is in front of or around the camera and as a quiet and sensible lady when she is near people she likes. Both of Dustin Hoffman's characters evolve throughout Tootsie's time span and he manages to deliver this development in a funny way, yet without lacking nuances of seriousness.

Of course, Tootsie is not all good. The movie is quite predictable and you are able to see what's coming far before its ending. As often happens with comedy films of this kind, Tootsie begins to lack a bit of believability towards its end. It is not anything problematic but it is noticeable. Also, although we see some development in Dustin Hoffman's character(s), there is almost none to little in the case of the others.

Despite its minor flaws, Tootsie is a solid motion picture and if you haven't seen it, you won't make a mistake by changing the status quo. You'll find an enjoyable to watch "tootsie" in the face of Hoffman and a movie that will make a couple of your hours funnier.

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