Friday, November 30, 2007

Stomp Tokyo - Cult Movies Podcast #47

In another catch-up episode, we talk about HD DVD and new theater experiences, as well as "No Country for Old Men" and "Cat O'Nine Tails."

Listen to episode #47 here (no iPod required).

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Panic releases CandyBar 3

CandyBar and Pixadex have long been the icon customization tools of choice for users of the Mac. The latest version of CandyBar combines the two tools into one application, which is supercool to say the least. It also integrates support for OS X 10.5's new 512x512 icons (can they really be called icons with that many pixels?) and allows customization of the much-maligned Dock as well. I'll be happy to see my active applications once more indicated with the familiar little triangles instead of glowing spots of light.

Gedeon Mayheux of the Iconfactory (the company behind Pixadex) supplies a video demo of the new application below. Doctor Who fans will want to stick around until the end.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eyeclops Bionic Eye

eyeclopsI've seen microscopes that hook up to your computer via USB, but this looks like fun too -- a 200x microscope that hooks up directly to your TV. There's less utility in the Eyeclops version since you can only hook it up to your TV and you can't capture images without the computer. A computer version used with a laptop be more portable as well. But more people probably have big TVs they could attach to this gadget for some spontaneous, casual examinations of everyday objects at a bug's eye view.

$40 at Amazon.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

An Ode to "2 Girls, 1 Cup"

If you haven't been exposed to Two Girls, One Cup, I envy you. This little video from Scott Allen Perry should tell you everything you need to know, though. Watch it first, then decide if you want to rape your own eyeballs that way. (You can Google it, I ain't gonna link from here.)

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Make mine Blu-Ray: the state of the hi-def DVD format wars

HD DVD vs Blu-Ray

Recently my partner in crime Scott purchased one of those insanely cheap $100 HD-DVD players, and as far as I can tell he's happy with it. But when making my own decision about which side of the idiotic format war to come down upon, I think I've made my decision in the opposite direction.

For the moment, to be honest, I'm staying out of the race entirely. My life is cluttered enough with insane home theater technology and entertainment opportunities galore; to my eyes standard-definition TV on my 27-inch flat panel LCD still looks pretty good and regular DVDs look great. Netflix and my Tivo keep me stocked on things to watch. I can afford to wait a year or more before even thinking about it, which is great because prices are only going to drop and there's even the remote possibility that one format or the other will flare out in the interim.

But in the event that this format war is still going on when I decide to drop some money on a hi-def player (and I suspect that it will be), I'm pretty sure my player of choice will be a Playstation 3, which of course supports Sony's Blu-Ray format. Here, in no particular order, are my reasons:

1. Combined game console and hi-def player. Given that a low-end PS3 has a Blu-Ray DVD player built in and costs less than most standalone Blu-Ray machines, why wouldn't I want to combine these two purchases? Of course, that assumes that I actually want to play some PS3 games. The PS2 has one of the largest game libraries in the world (if not the largest) and it's a fair bet that the PS3 will follow suit. To make this argument really stick I should have an actual title in mind, though, which brings me to reason #2...

2. Ratchet and Clank Future. The Ratchet and Clank series was, in my humblest of opinions, the best set of games yet created on a non-Nintendo console. You can keep your Halos and your Grand Theft Autos -- the R&C games are funny, action-packed, and challenging without being too challenging. They also don't require a commitment of an hour or more when you just want to sit down for a few minutes and blow some stuff up. When R&C Future: Tools of Destruction was announced for the PS3, my fate was sealed -- eventually, I'll be spending some quality time with that console.

3. Disney. Do I really need to say more? With a toddler at home and a wife who adores both classic Disney and contemporary Pixar releases, Disney's announcement of support for Blu-Ray makes the format a no-brainer. That's not to say that Disney wouldn't jump ship and put their movies out on HD-DVD if the market rejected Blu-Ray, but when Disney comes out in support of a format it can only have positive effects. I'm not eager to replace our collection of dozens of Disney DVDs, but the idea of watching A Bug's Life in high definition does have a certain attraction.

4. Whither goest the adult movie industry? At first I figured I had a good line on this one, with the reports I was reading online indicating that the porn industry was going with Blu-Ray. One of the big "lessons" to come out of the Betamax/VHS wars was that the porn industry can be a good indicator of technological trends. Unfortunately the literature on this one is all over the place. No one can seem to agree on which format the industry favors -- if the industry as a whole can be said to favor either. There are some nasty rumors that Blu-Ray manufacturers are refusing to replicate adult videos, just as Betamax manufacturers did back in the day. If true, it could mean history repeating itself. Or not. (See update below.)

5. To my mind, Sony is less evil than Microsoft. I've owned a number of Sony products I quite liked. I can't say that for Microsoft, unless you count the xBox I use solely as a hacked video player. It's kind of a weak reason, but when my porn argument fell apart I felt like I should come up with something else.

In the end such rumination is mostly guesswork and as consumers we're all just taking shots in the dark about what constitutes a sound decision. This is probably one of the last physical format wars that will actually matter -- if even this one matters. Digital distribution of films is going to make all of this hand-wringing a moot point. Until that day, however, I think we're looking at a two-format world and the need for some good hybrid players to help us live in it.

Update: Here's a little video that sums up the fears of the HD-DVD conglomerate. It could just as easily go the other way, of course, but the Blu-Ray proponents got to YouTube first.

And another update: Check out this video from C|NET about the whole porn thing. Looks like it's still a wash from the industry's perspective, though HD-DVD seems to have a slight edge. You can see the follow-up segment to this one here.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

YouTube Saturday - Extended Cloverfield Trailer

Friday, November 16, 2007

YouTube Friday part 2 - Paul Anka sings Van Halen

I just heard this Vegas lounge cover version of Van Halen's "Jump" on the Muzak at the coffee shop I'm working from this morning. God bless Google, it identified Paul Anka as the perpetrator within seconds. You can witness Paul Anka singing "Jump" for yourself here, since they've disabled embedding for some reason.

This is but one track on a full album of pop covers called "Rock Swings" -- includes "Eye of the Tiger" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Just awesome.

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Sorcese's Sesame Streets

If it's Friday, it must be time for a YouTube post. Due to language, not safe for work.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reanimator - article on "Pushing Daisies" in the New Yorker

pushing daisies

In this week's New Yorker, Nancy Franklin's article on the TV series Pushing Daisies reveals that its creator Bryan Fuller was responsible for two other quirky-brilliant television series, also favorites of mine. Dead Like Me ran for a brief two seasons on Showtime and Wonderfalls flared out after only four episodes. (Both shows are now available in their entirety on DVD.) In retrospect this makes a lot of sense; Daisies shares the precision of comedy that made both shows so delightful. The changeover to a male protagonist (both other shows featured young women as the focus) makes for interesting comparison, though Ned seems much less a protagonist than a human Maguffin around which the other characters orbit. If you're unfamiliar with the series, read Franklin's article for a good synopsis.

I don't know how many episodes Franklin got to see before turning in her final draft, but she skips over the show's most interesting feature by far: Kristen Chenoweth as Olive Snook, the waitress at Ned's restaurant and the rival for his affections. The third point in a romantic triangle is rarely given the charm and subtlety of character that we see in Olive, and given the problems inherent in a romance between Ned and Chuck, it would be nice to see the lovebirds come to some sense about their relationship and let Olive get her shot. For the purposes of drama, however, this is exactly what will not happen.

Franklin closes her article with this:

"Pushing Daisies" probably shouldn't last longer than a season; fairy tales aren't supposed to go on forever. It will then take its place proudly beside other worthy efforts that lived fast, died young, and left behind a beautiful DVD.
I disagree that the concept doesn't have the legs to last longer than a season; it could probably go three or four without going completely stale, but it needs to get past the Ned & Chuck romance stage in order to move on to more interesting things -- like the origins of Ned's power (which might take all the fun out of it), or perhaps some other interesting applications to be derived from it. (Could Ned resurrect famous figures from the past, provided their remains could be located?) Fortunately for us the ratings for Pushing Daisies are quite good. If it can survive the seemingly inevitable writers' strike hiatus, we may get to see more than a single box set's worth of stories.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Stomp Tokyo review: The Zombie Diaries (2006)

zombiediariesRemember all that talk about a sabbatical? Well, it's still on. I just felt that I couldn't let our commitment to the latest B-Masters Cabal roundtable (Month of the Living Dead-Palooza) go entirely, so there's a new review of The Zombie Diaries now available at Stomp Tokyo for your enjoyment. There might be one more soon if I can muster the strength to put together some thoughts about Carnival Magic.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peter Davison returns (briefly) as the Fifth Doctor

timecrashYou bet your ass it's time for some new Doctor Who. The BBC announced last week that Friday they'll be airing "Time Crash," a "new scene" in the Doctor Who universe created as part of the Children in Need charity telethon.

It's not long now until Friday night - and Time Crash, the special Doctor Who scene starring David Tennant and Peter Davison.

As well as Time Crash, written by Steven Moffat and directed by Graeme Harper, the Children In Need telethon will also feature the vocal talents of John Barrowman, who will be singing during the evening.

In association with Children In Need, the Doctor Who website team will be doing our bit to support this historic meeting of two Doctors.

If you're in the UK, you'll be able to catch the scene online for seven days after it's shown on TV, along with a very special behind-the-scenes featurette from the Doctor Who Confidential team.

We'll also be running a mini episode guide, including galleries, a fact file and full credits.

I think this underscores the special place that Doctor Who has in the hearts of the British populace. How many television shows in the States -- never mind science fiction shows -- have a following devoted enough to justify annual holiday specials for charity?

Learn more about the mini-episode here and here, and check out a nice large image of the two Doctors together here. Also, check out the "front" page of the Doctor Who section of the BBC's web site for yet another image.

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Stomp Tokyo - The Cult Movies Podcast #46

podcastIn Episode 46 of the Stomp Tokyo Podcast, we talk about the recent burst of vampires in pop culture, Elmo on the iPhone, and Matango - Attack of the Mushroom People. Plus lots of other stuff.

Listen now, no iPod required.

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Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters

picMy sabbatical from things Stomp Tokyo means that I'm no longer posting to Film Buff Stuff, but I couldn't resist passing along word of this new book from cult movie enthusiast August Ragone.

The Amazon description states:

Behind-the-scenes hero to anyone who's thrilled by giant monsters duking it out over Tokyo, Eiji Tsuburaya was the visual effects mastermind behind Godzilla, Ultraman, and numerous Japanese science fiction movies and TV shows beloved around the world. The first book on this legendary film figure in English, this highly visual biography details his fascinating life and career, featuring hundreds of film stills, posters, concept art, and delightful on-set photos of Tsuburaya prompting monsters to crush landmark buildings. A must-have for fans, this towering tribute also features profiles of Tsuburaya's film collaborators, details on his key films and shows (most available on DVD), and features on the enduring popularity of the characters he helped create.

The behind-the-scenes photos are apparently quite something to behold -- can't wait to take a look for myself.

Check out the Amazon listing for Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters: Defending the Earth with Ultraman and Godzilla.

[Via Giant Monsters Attack!.]

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Off-Broadway Shows Buoyed by Stagehand Strike

Interesting story on NPR's Morning Edition this morning about the stagehand strike that has shut down most of the big Broadway shows in New York. Because off-Broadway shows use non-union stagehands, they remain in operation and have been enjoying a boom in business from tourists who still want to see a show while in town. Listen to the story here: NPR : Off-Broadway Shows Buoyed by Stagehand Strike.


Word Wars

wordwarsAfter watching Wordplay I added a few different puzzle-competition type documentaries to my Netflix queue. Word Wars, which documents the National Scrabble Championship of 2002, is the first one I've felt compelled to say anything about. It's worth watching, if only by virtue of its odd cast of characters. If one is to judge by these contestants, Scrabble players are the black sheep of the puzzle family -- they seem more bloodthirsty, more compulsive (two of the contestants seem to enjoy taking each others' money more than anything else), and certainly more dysfunctional than their pencil-wielding brethren.

The film is less compelling than Wordplay, mostly because it is only about the contestants. New crossword puzzles are created every day, but each game of Scrabble begins from the same blank board and a few randomly selected tiles, so the movie can't squeeze any fun out of the game's origins. There is no father figure like the affable Will Shortz presiding over the world of Scrabble, and there seems precious little mirth or wit involved in the game. In some ways, Scrabble is the exact opposite of a crossword puzzle -- because it is merely about letter arrangement, divorced entirely from the meanings of the words, it reduces the necessary language skills to rote memorization and probability calculation. As one of the contestants remarks, there are few English Lit professors in the tournament, but mathematicians abound.

So what we're left with are the competitors. The reigning champion comes off as an incurable bore, ripe for the unseating. His challengers seem a bit unsavory but entertainingly scrappy, and each gives the impression (often stated by their on-screen friends and loved ones) that if only he would apply his dedication to Scrabble in some other area of life, he might actually make something of himself. Word Wars is a delicious bit of schadenfreude that will almost certainly make you feel better about your own life, but not recommended for repeat viewing.

Find Word Wars at Amazon. And believe it or not, there's another Scrabble doc called Scrabylon.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Heroes, season 2 - the time of waffling

wafflesI think I've figured out why the second season of Heroes isn't really striking any chords for me. Here it is: as villains go, diseases just aren't very sexy. Part of Heroes' charm in the first season was its simplicity: take clear comic-book style heroes and villains and make them slightly more realistic (no spandex) or conflicted (Horn-Rimmed Glasses guy hunts heroes but also adopted one) and make things spin out of control.

This season introduced concepts and characters that aren't terribly dynamic (a brother-sister team that bring on a deadly plague but can also cure it?) or are difficult to represent on screen (the aforementioned unsexy disease). The best heroes were benched as soon as they reached some self-realization (Claire, Peter, Hiro) and the only interesting plot thread has been the murder mystery. At least these threads seem to be coming together as we finally meet Adam Munroe (the former Takezo Kensei, whose healing ability apparently keeps him from aging as well). I'm hoping they keep Sylar well out of the mix for a while, or at least keep him from acquiring a crapload of powers again.

From the events we saw last week, the players are coming back together for an (hopefully) action-packed second half (two-thirds?) to the season. Hiro has returned to the "present," Peter has regained his memory (partially) and come back from yet another dystopic future, and the identity of Adam Munroe has been revealed. Tonight we should at least find out the direction that the writers had intended for the series to go -- if only that strike weren't stopping production dead in its tracks.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Weird Wednesday: Carnival Magic

carnival magic

So last night I went to the first-ever Weird Wednesday at the new Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location because I figured that if ever they were going to show a special, special movie designed for maximum audience pain, this would be the time. I wasn't wrong.

Carnival Magic is an über-rare kids movie directed by Al Adamson. Yes, that Al Adamson: the man who brought us such fine films as Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Black Samurai, and Blazing Stewardesses.

If you're thinking to yourself "this is not a man who should be directing anything for kids," you win a gold star. It was disturbing. It was horrifying. It was very, very wrong.

But most of all, it was fascinating.

I know I just went on sabbatical from the site and all, but this movie makes me want to write a review.

Many thanks to Lars and Zack for the damaging, damaging memories.

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Tivo offers lifetime subscriptions again - temporarily

tivologoMy sister, knowing my devotion to all things Tivo, sent me this link to this Engadget blog post:

Call it a quick holiday cash-in targeted at current TiVo owners if you must, but you're not about to kill our buzz about the fact that TiVo's resurrecting the greatly missed Product Lifetime Service (aka lifetime subscription) for Series3 and HD owners -- temporarily, anyway, and for realsies this time. As of today -- but only through January 2nd, 2008 -- current TiVo owners can upgrade their Series2 to a Series3 or HD with lifetime, or simply upgrade the service on their current S3 / HD -- equipment aside, the service will set you back $399.

Tempting, but for some reason I'm just really slow to jump on the HD bandwagon. I think it's the lack of funds to pay for things like HD-ready Tivos and digital HDTV service. (We currently pay $15 a month for basic cable service - HD channels would be many times that.) HD will probably come to my house in the form of a cheap hi-def DVD player first (the jury's still out on HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray in my book), or maybe an Apple TV if they decide to start offering high definition movies for rent. Until then, we'll watch the same old regular definition shows that have been serving man since TV began.

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Joss Whedon on the WGA Strike

I’ve done well, and I’m grateful that I can weather a long winter. Compared to what the studios have made off me my share is tiny and cute, but I’m in no position to complain. But take that differential, apply it to someone who’s just getting by when they deserve better. Now take it and… well, just take it, ‘cause when it comes to the internet and the emerging media there’s nothing there for the artists. There’s no precedent; these media didn’t exist the last time a contract was negotiated. We’re not just talking about an unfair deal, we’re talking about no deal at all.

Read Whedon's entire post here.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

WGA strikers use YouTube to tell their side of the story

Brilliant, really. I wonder if the execs will clue in and try to set up an opposing YouTube channel. And if they do, who will write their videos for them?

Check out the other videos on the WGA YouTube Channel.

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Stomp Tokyo goes to 11

Lava LampEach year about this time I write a self-congratulatory little essay about the achievements of the past year at Stomp Tokyo. This year is no different in that respect, except for the sad fact that Stomp Tokyo didn't accomplish much.

This is not at all to diminish the good work of those in the Stomp Tokyo family of sites who were productive this year: Ryan over at Reel Opinions is a cinema criticism machine, and if you're not one of those currently enjoying his weekly missives from the cineplex I encourage you to give him a chance. Attack of the 50 Foot DVD had a pretty good year as well, turning out thoughtful reviews of genre DVDs at a regular clip. Hell, Scott and I even managed to keep the podcast going on a semi-regular schedule. Bad Movie Planet shows occasional signs of life and the Bad Movie Report even saw a few updates (and might do so again now that Dr. Freex's turn on the stage as Van Helsing has come to an end).

When it comes to reviews from the Chris & Scott mothership, however, we clearly lost steam. Since this time last year there have been fewer than a dozen reviews. There are a lot of reasons why this is the case, and they're all the usual things you might expect from a pair of thirty-something snarkmeisters who no longer live in the same town and whose "real life" responsibilities have changed. Even with the best of intentions and multiple verbal rededications to the purpose, we just didn't come through.

I wouldn't say we've reached the point of a mature attitude towards the cinema or anything, but Scott and I need an official break from the site for a while. We've decided to take a year's sabbatical from Stomp Tokyo, using that time to pursue other projects and/or recharge our batteries. I think the hope is that some formal separation from the watch-and-review process (which instills a vague sense of guilt when I watch a movie with no intentions of writing about it later) will rekindle our enthusiasm for b-movies, and in particular the making fun of those movies "in print."

Not that we'll disappear entirely from the b-landscape, mind you. Scott and I each intend to post regularly to our blogs (here and, uh -- on the page you're reading) and we'll keep recording podcasts as our schedules permit. I'm still involved with B-Fest and my job keeps me in touch with the local Austin film scene and with film festivals around the world. I'll be posting occasionally at Slackerwood as well. So see? You'll hardly notice I'm "gone." What Scott intends to do with his time (besides watch high-def DVDs) is unknown; you'll have to ask him over on his blog.

There was some talk between the two of us about using the "extra" time to move the older reviews into the new Wordpress format. If that happens the front page will change from time to time as we throw those reviews into the new look. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those reviews got some additional polishing in the writing department as we gaze back upon our former language in horror. But that would be, you know, if we get motivated around that.

So that's what we're up to on the 11th anniversary of starting this crazy project. Not the most upbeat annual report I've ever given, but I'm looking forward to the official vacation we've granted to ourselves. I hope that this time next year you find us refreshed and ready to return with guns blazing.

Thanks for hanging in there with us, especially those who have been around since the beginning (and I know you're out there). We find your faith in us disturbing, but we're glad it's there just the same.


The Godzilla Burger - eat it all and they'll name it after YOU


That's five pounds of burger plus extra fixin's, for $100 -- refundable if you eat it all in under an hour.

I wouldn't pay $100 just for the "privilege" of eating the burger, but I can see a group of friends chipping in to buy it for the entertainment value of watching their buddy contestant give it a try.

Learn more at the Phantom Gourmet.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

WGA Strike is here to save me from myself


The screenwriters strike is here, and I can't say I'm too broken up about it. We're just a wee bit TV addicted here at Stomp Tokyo HQ (Austin branch), so maybe the break from TV (which looks like it'll come right around Christmas or so) will let us get a few things done besides feed our eyeballs. There are obviously serious issues at stake here and there's a lot more than my personal productivity to consider, but on the most personal, selfish level I'm looking forward to the break from the Tivo onslaught. Perhaps I'll even remove a season pass or two, though I imagine my wife and I would have to fight over which ones would get the axe.

On a related note, it looks like Heroes: Origins has been put down, at least for now. Given the way this season of the flagship show has been going, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. It seems to be suffering some sophomore year loss-of-direction problems, but here's hoping the writers come back from the strike with some fresh ideas.


Monday, November 05, 2007


Originally uploaded by stomptokyo

Normally I'm not a "pre-order the game at full price" kinda guy, but Homerball here (and the amazing game trailers convinced me to do it just this once. I bought the version for the Wii, but I notice the characters are somewhat more pixellated than the ones in the game trailers. I'm assuming those take advantage of the more sophisticated chips in the Xbox 360 and PS3 systems. Not that I plan on dropping $400 on a video game console, but if you have one of those you might want to buy the game for that system instead.

Simpsons Game for Wii

Simpsons Game for PS 3

Simpsons Game for Xbox 360

Simpsons Game for PS2

The Outsourced Brain - New York Times

David Brooks describes how he "outsources" knowledge to technology in this piece: The Outsourced Brain. I completely identify with the bit about using GPS as a crutch, but it totally works.

(Via Daring Fireball.)