Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sins of DVD Menus

As I was trying to watch "The Spy Who Loved Me" today, it dawned on me all of the ways DVD companies torture their loyal customers. I am, as a video store employee, acutely aware of these atrocities, and would like to vent my frustrations upon you. I implore you to share your own stories, which I may not yet have encountered in my daily struggle.

1. Complicated menus trying to mimic or associate with the accompanying movie: "The Spy Who Loved Me", along with all of the recent Bond releases, goes directly to a screen with only one button, which says "activate" or "initiate" or something to that effect. This is before you get to the actual menu screen which takes 15 seconds to load due to all of its fancy digital effects!
Sinners: James Bond; lots of Sci-fi and action flicks.

The most common DVD crimes force me to walk back and forth between the back room where the player is located and the center of the store where I can see the TV. If I have to do this more than once, it's another soul off to compact disc hell.

2. It seems alot of DVDs want to show you 15-30 seconds worth of clips highlighting the movie you're about to watch. TV series are especially bad. As a viewer, I've already bought or rented the film, I don't need to see out of context bits of what I am literally seconds away from watching. As a video store employee, I really just want to get the movie started so I can get back to the register.
Sinners: Generally comedies, especially ones starring Dane Cook or Ashton Kutcher, which shoot their entire comic wad during the menu loop; Family Guy

3. Almost all DVD menus have a repetitive loop of audio and or visuals over their main menu, and it is almost always inexcusable. If a movie ends at workduring a busy time, a single 16 second loop can repeat for up to 20 minutes. I cannot think of a specific DVD where this is acceptable, although I remember noticing a few where the loop is an entire song, or something ambient and mellow, which is bearable at best.
Sinners: Again, TV shows seem to love this feature, which is ironic seeing as they play the show's theme song, which also plays at the beginning of every fucking episode; Mythbusters

4. No "Play All" feature. This has been been widely remedied in later years, but damn it's a stinker. Another TV specific complaint (and store specific-- not such a big deal at home), it means you simply have to walk all over the store every 21 minutes. The Twilight Zone is the worst. Their menu tree is as such:

Main Menu-Episode Selection-Episode (with special features)-Episode Scene Selection

With each episode ending on the same episode's scene selection. I think you have to press the arrow button on the remote something like 6 times to get to the previous menu, then back another screen to the episode selection, down to the next episode, ad nauseam. I'm getting red in the face just writing about it.
Sinners: Early Simpsons, Family Guy, Twilight Zone

I should mention season 5 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That DVD features a play all button which begins all13+ episodes simultaneously in thumbnail-size boxes on the screen. Really obnoxious, I know, but I kind of have to laugh every time I see it.

There have been a few strides forward in DVD setup since their introduction. The hugest boon to the home viewing market was the almost industry-wide abandonment of mandatory previews. Nearly any DVD that does still feature previews makes you access them from the menu, or at least lets you skip through them. That alone was reason enough to drop VHS.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kingdom of the Spiders

Kingdom of the Spiders is the only Shatner movie I've watched outside of the Star Trek universe (well, Devil's Rain in the store). And it's pretty damn good. Rachael Scoffed at me when I said it was better than The Birds, but I might stand by that statement. In craft, few can match Hitchcock, and Spiders owes a lot to The Birds (and Night of the Living Dead), but it manages pure B gold with good acting and a handful of my favorite 70's film techniques. Long lost are the fish eye lens, zoom shots and freeze frames.

The film manages to be creepy, but mostly in a "ohmigodgetitoffofme" way than a tense or startling way. It's effectiveness lies almost completely in the fact that they used real spiders throughout, something that could not be done today. It's a little sad to realize how many actual spiders they drowned, burned, stepped on and ran over to make it (PETA would be raining shit on a movie like that nowdays). But, what's done is done and it's sooooo much more effective than rubber or CGI spiders...

So go check it out and don't skip the shock ending. It's a lot of fun!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a Dark Day for Civil Rights in California

Apparently the citizens of our great state believe chickens deserve rights more than homosexuals.

A provision of proposition 2 states that gay and lesbian chickens are to remain in confined cages.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another Day

I'm so sick of "election fever". It is so aggravating and insulting. They're all guilty. And by the way, if there was ever a proposition we needed in California, it's one to repeal the God-forsaken policy of Daylight Saving Time. It's a travesty. I don't even know anymore which period was the original time setting, but end it please, it does nothing but cause problems.

Ok, enough of that.

You guys want Movies!

I was pretty good this month, plus I haven't written for a while. I'll try and remember everything I watched, but I'll probably update as I catch a few that I miss.

Witchfinder General : Vincent Price is easily one of my favorite actors, and this is easily one of his better films. While I love the campiness of Phibes and House of Wax, this movie is ruthless and brutal, especially for it's time. Apparently there was a lot of tension on the set during filming, and it comes across in the performances. The director died after making only three films at a very young age and his other two are currently unavailable in the US.

The Killing : If prompted, I would call Stanley Kubrick my favorite director, and this film affirms that notion (I have yet to see 5 of his films, but I'm working on it). The Killing is nothing short of brilliant. It's the kind of movie I would recommend to people who think they don't like B&W movies, because it's subtle yet so gripping and I don't feel as moved by a movie very often. Tom got me on a Timothy Carey bent, and his story is another great eccentric Hollywood fable.

Speaking of Hollywood fables, The Long Goodbye is my most recent watch. Elliot Gould is one of those utterly likable actors (see Harrison Ford, Robert Downey Jr.) that carries a movie and when the material is good, the whole thing shines. It's a neo-noir with biting humor and typical Los Angeles avarice. A winning combination.

I got on a Woody Allen kick recently, as well. So far, he has failed to disappoint. While I don't think anything can rival Annie Hall, he comes damn close with Broadway Danny Rose. Slapstick reigns in Bananas, and most recently I saw Take the Money and Run. Woody Allen is a fantastic filmmaker, there's no question.

"After 15 minutes I wanted to marry her. After half an hour I forgot about stealing her purse altogether."

That's all I can say. I haven't seen a bad film he's made (though to be fair, I've been avoiding more recent stuff, as in anything starring Jason Biggs or Will Ferrell).

Cube. Badass. Exactly the type of movie that inspires the poor filmmaker in me. Low budget is written all over it, and it could practically be a play in the sense of scene changes, but damned if it isn't gripping as shit. The silent room made me want to go cry. You go watch!

Movies that could be plays or once were plays are mixed bag. They can feel stifled, or work perfectly. House of Yes was a pretty good movie, but it feels so stage-y that I feel it might be stronger that way. The same goes for Rope. The Hitchcock mastery is present here, but it felt a little lacking. I've been trying to dissect it for a week now, and I can't quite place my feelings. I guess it felt too obvious. The pacing was good, but the premise was a little dated, and would have been better suited with more humor. Picture Arsenic and Old Lace without the laughs. But my biggest issue with the picture may be considered quite blasphemous: I don't really like James Stewart. I guess he's just too much like... James Stewart. Just like when I watch a movie with George Clooney of Leonardo Dicaprio, I can't see any character, all I see is George Clooney or Leonardo Di-Crap-Rio... All I sshee is Jimmy Sshtewart. Ya know?

I've also begun watching an anime series called Gantz. I picked up the manga in... uh... borders to kill sometime and got really intrigued. I definitely don't consider myself an anime fan, but it's peculiar and engrossing.

I haven't watched anything recently that I didn't like, now that I think about it. Kabluey, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Sarah Silverman Show S.2, Twitch City, Indiana Jones 4 (minus the greaser-monkeys-swinging-on-vines-shia-unwatchable-insult-to-anyone-who-has-ever-had-a-thought-lebouf-scene).

Things are looking up for the world, so drink some caol ila, and here's to you!