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Archive for October, 2010

Buttered Popcorn Movie Review: “Despicable Me”

Originally Straight From The Recliner was supposed to be a review website that looks at the latest batch of movies and TV. Instead the reviews morphed into a fun, retrospective look at what we have watched from the ’80s and  ’90s (two eras most of you grew up in). Therefore I feel obliged to review at  least one new movie currently screening in a cinema near you. If there’s one movie that screams everything new in movies (i.e. CGI, 3D, new celebrities) and since the school holidays has wrapped up, today we are discussing the family-friendly hit Despicable Me.

Despicable Me

Produced by Universal Pictures, Despicable Me is about a no-goodnik meglomaniac named Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) who plans to steal the moon with the help of his trusty sidekick, Doctor Nefario (an almost unrecognizable Russell Brand) and his motley crew of monsters simply known as “minions”. However when his scheme is challenged by a younger, Jerry Lewis-esque villain Vector (How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segal), Gru adopts three orphan girls to, unbeknownst to them, help him conduct his most evil plan yet.  Will Gru complete his mission or will he turn from superbad to superdad?

Before I watched this, I had zero expectations for Despicable Me. Apart from seeing the trailers and TV commercials, there wasn’t much hype towards this CGI film compared to franchise juggernauts, Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After. Thankfully, Despicable Me is better than I thought. Similar to last year’s Disney/Pixar film Up, the film has the same lovable “grumpy man grows a kind loving heart” formula but still be in a league of its own. The graphics are fun to watch and almost has a French cartoon feel with the looks of the characters’ faces and setting. Although the latest trend of making movies in 3D are overrated, Despicable Me is one of the rare films that took the 3D gimmick to its full potential especially during one scene involving a shark and later, a roller coaster. You don’t have to watch this film in 3D however as the movie is good alone.

Normally, I can’t stand A-list Hollywood actors providing voices in big-budget animation films. Why spend millions of dollars in getting a celebrity to voice one character where you could get a full-time professional voice actor who can uniquely play TEN characters (i.e. Rob Paulsen, Grey DeLisle, Billy West, etc). Usually most of A-list celebrities in animation sound bland and they are just being themselves behind the microphones. For example, I cringed when I saw boy band N’Sync in a Simpsons episode. On the contrary, the celebrity cast in Despicable Me are actually good.  Steve Carrell was a treat to hear as the European-accented Gru. Jason Segall  brought cockiness to the film’s real villain, Julie Andrews is surprisingly cynical (therefore funny) as Gru’s mother and mentioned earlier, Russell Brand steals the show as the old nutty professor. So the producers of Despicable Me did a great job of assembling an all-star cast that actually sounds good in animation.

So if you want to see a fun animated movie that does not have the Disney or Dreamworks logo at the start, go for Despicable Me. Like most CGI movies out there, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it.

“No More Late Fees?”-The death of the local video shop

About five years ago at secondary school, a friend who worked at a Video Ezy store predicted the video rental industry will became extinct because of the Internet. Five years later, he was right.

Last year, video rental giant Blockbuster has closed down a thousand branches in the US and the company recently filled for bankruptcy. No doubt the already fading Blockbuster stores will close down in Australia. It’s hard to believe Blockbuster and other video rental chains used to be top business twenty years ago. There’s a strong chance Video Ezy and Devoted DVD are next. It seems everyday we see less and less of video rental outlets. Video shops were common as Fish-N-Chips at the streets and now there are only one hidden at your suburb.

What’s killing the video rental industry is anyone’s guess. Here’s the list:

1) The damn Internet. Everybody are streaming and downloading (either legally or illegally-I choose the later) movies online without leaving the house. Computers has further dominated our entertainment viewing with the introduction of iTunes, YouTube and BigPond Movies.

2) Current generation consoles PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360. Same reasons above. Sony and Microsoft have introduced movie downloading service where people can own or rent downloaded movies without any use of DVD and Blu-Ray discs. All movie files from Sony and Microsoft are in HD.

3) Movie piracy. Has always been a threat to the movie industry in general but with everyone using DVD burners, the threat is here to stay.

4) The new fangled DVD rental vending machines. On paper, they may sound like a joke but they’re real and on the rise. They started to appear in Melbourne and now appearing at Shell petrol stations and supermarkets. Just insert 2 bucks and like a Coke can, you will get a movie out of the hatch.

5) Everyone wants a bargain. Granted the $2 Super Tuesday deal is great, but with vending machines, you rent cheap DVDs anytime you want. Internet you’ll download a pirated copy for free.

6) “Word Of Mouth.” This is probably the most common reason of the demise of video rentals but has not been discussed in the media. Friends and family would burn DVDs to each other or pass them through their USB drives. Why go to the store when you could get a movie off from your cousin, brother, school mate from the playground, etc.

It’s part of the changing times and the evolution of technology. Cassettes were killed by compact discs which are now challenged by MP3 players. Sadly like VHS, video shops are becoming extinct. Unless you’re going to do something about it.

If you can’t stand bad quality downloaded movies or you want to watch a movie that you never heard of, do yourself a favour and support your local video shop! Bring life back to the shelves!

Categories: Featured articles

Who digitalised Roger Rabbit?

It’s amazing what you would find on the Internet. Recently leaked out on YouTube, here’s what appears to be a screen test for the canceled sequel, Who Framed Roger Rabbit 2 that was made as a pitch for Disney executives in 1998. Not only it was supposed to convince Disney to make the sequel but it features a computer-generated version of Roger Rabbit himself. Keep in mind, this is all real and not fan-made.

The second Roger Rabbit movie was originally a prequel titled Toon Patrol where Roger and other Toons fight Nazis in World war II (no joke) and later a more family-friendly direct sequel set to be made in the late ’90s until Disney shut it down.

However, director Robert Zemeckis has announced there are new plans to make Roger Rabbit 2 after Disney went retro again with the long-awaited sequel Tron Legacy.

So yes we might see Jessica Rabbit swing her hips again very soon.

Categories: Weird News

Freeview in a nutshell: The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Freeview

Let’s rewind back to 2003. Quite frankly, 2003 was a terrible year to watch free-to-air television. All the three major networks (Seven, Nine  and Ten) were airing nothing but “reality” TV programing and hundreds of house renovation shows that all looked the same. The early ’00s was a period when scripted drama (both Australia and US) were, believe it or not, close to extinction as everyone seemed to like watching wannabees singing badly at a karaoke contest, couples renovating a block and housemates doing absolutely nothing at a “big brother” house.  Just because everyone are watching reality TV, doesn’t mean they all like it.  The only TV shows that were entertaining back  then were old-school  Doctor Who repeats and CNNN-The Chaser’s Non-Stop News Network on ABC, mostly because they were different from the saturated prime-time trend. Apart from the non-educational offerings of ABC, the only resort for home entertainment are pay TV service FOXTEL and DVD box-sets but they cost tons of money. In retrospects, it’s impossible to tell the networks what you want to watch on TV but we should have given more viewing choices and variety without breaking the bank.

Daleks

It was either Big Brother or this.....

Let’s fast forward to October 2010. It’s the best time to be a TV viewer and a booming period for home entertainment. FOXTEL and DVDs from retailers, like JB HI-FI, are increasingly affordable while the introduction of Blu-Ray and high definition TV makes even the most boring show watchable just for the picture quality alone.  Broadband Internet has turned online videos into a legitimate medium and downloading music became more accessible. Finally, digital TV and Freeview has totally revolutionised living rooms across Australia.

Originated from the UK in 2002 and adapted by Australian networks to compete against FOXTEL, Freeview is a digital TV service that allow viewers to get extra channels in good picture & sound quality depending on your reception. Oh did I mention its for FREE? All of the free channels are spun-off from the the major networks (i.e. ONE Sports HD is part of the TEN network) and in addition to the recently launched 7mate and GEM, there are 24 channels available for your viewing pleasure. Obviously the best thing about Freeview is the wide selection of programs you want to watch on TV and each channel is crafted for a specific audience. Feel like watching repeats of Hogan’s Heores instead of watching the AFL Grand Final rematch? You switch to GO! Want Australian news anytime you want, there’s ABC 24/7 News Channel. For kids and big kids alike, there’s ABC3. Upset that the later seasons of Heroes and Lost were shown at the Gravyard shift on Seven?  You can watch them at a better timeslot on 7mate.

Great to see you again, Fred

As the above headline suggested, Freeview is a major step forward from what we used to have ten years ago. It’s great to see classics like The Flintstones make its surprise primetime return on free-to-air  and more choices for everyone’s viewing needs. Despite its original purpose, its unlikely Freeview could rival FOXTEL as there are popular programs , such as Australia’s Top Model and the WWE franchise, that are pay TV exclusive but they’re close to it.  Freeview shouldn’t be counted as the final nail in the coffin to the already dying video rental industry as DVDs are still popular and its insane to suggest anyone would prefer to watch commercial-interrupted movies over Blu-Ray. However, Freeview is welcomed for opening arms.

The only catch of Freeview is you need to get either a plasma or LCD digital TV set. If you want to keep that old bulky idiot box, there’s always the digital set top boxes. Either way, they’re worth every cent.

TV is finally cool again and 2003 is just a distant memory.