Friday, December 20, 2013

"The Expendables 3" - First Teaser!

Teaser: "The Expendables 3" - Lionsgate

Film's all-time most underachieving action franchise, "The Expendables," has come out with their first teaser for installment 3. And, this is a true teaser, in that nothing at all from the film is shown. It's just the cast walking away from the camera and turning around.

That's it! Nothing more. Wow, I am, like, so excited now! (yes, that's a joke!)

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - First Trailer!

Trailer: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - 20th Century-Fox

The first trailer for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is live! Ten years have passed since the previous film, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Humans and apes fight for Earth's future after a worldwide pandemic cost the lives of billions.

Here is the YouTube Channel on which the trailer and subsequent videos will appear:

"Planet of the Apes" Channel

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"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - Trailer at 6 a.m. PT!

Teaser: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" - 20th Century-Fox

The first trailer for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" will be released at 6 a.m. PT / 9 a.m. ET this morning.

Here is the YouTube Channel on which the trailer and subsequent videos will appear:

"Planet of the Apes" Channel

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Restaurant Review - Chili's - Olive Branch, MS

Location: 7910 Craft Goodman Frontage Rd, Olive Branch, MS 38654

Dinner Disaster!

This Chili's is in real need of leadership, and in need of structure. While some of the servers seemed to be okay, mine wasn't! Just a guy who seemed lost, didn't know the menu at all, and didn't know how to put an order into the kitchen.

It took one very extensive hour to get food, and it wasn't good when it arrived! The steak was overdone, the potatoes cold, and the broccoli seriously wilted. It took a while to get a manager, in this case, April. When she did arrive, I was able to get replacements for the potatoes and the broccoli.

The server had said that our ticket wasn't entered by the kitchen, but I am pretty sure it was by him. After the meal was finally over, I tried to get the manager again, but had to wait 15 or more minutes. When she did arrive, she comped the meal, and had said that she meant that earlier when she said she would "take care of it." I had thought she meant that she would take care of fixing the meal, not the check.

It was good that she did, but it was certainly too late! The food was okay when the right version came, but certainly not until then. And, this wasn't a day where I was in the mood for thoroughly bad service and mediocre food.


Rating: 1 / 5 (1 Out of 5 Stars)

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Monday, December 16, 2013

"Inside Llewyn Davis" - Film Review

Trailer: "Inside Llewyn Davis" - CBS Films


This is one of those movies that I can't review unless I go into why I didn't like it. So, yes, there will be extensive spoilers.

After seeing this, I wonder if the Coen's have been hanging out with Woody Allen. That's because "Inside Llewyn Davis" is as purposefully depressing as Allen's "Blue Jasmine." I give this movie one more star than the other, since the music is pretty good. But, that's the only reason.

Right from the outset, Llewyn Davis, the folk singer main character, is shown to be self destructive and depressed. We wonder why this is as the movie goes on. We do learn a key reason why that is, the sudden suicide of his singing partner. And, we can sympathize with that to an extent. But, apart from that, Davis gives us no reason to care any further. He does have to deal with a hyper angry girlfriend, who is only able to yell the same line at Davis again and again.

We are given little bits of hope for Davis here and there. Mainly in how he takes care of a cat that got out of an apartment where Davis was crashing. Davis loses the cat, and finds who he thinks is the right cat, but isn't. When he returns to the apartment with the wrong cat to where the original cat lived, we get one hilarious joke that had me really laughing. Davis leaves with that cat who wasn't the apartment dweller's.

But, that seemed to be a turning point in the movie, as the quirky, funny moments that came before stopped. From there, it got more and more dark and depressing.

When the Coen's have the scene where Davis leaves that wrong cat in a car along the road, it's as if the Coen's are telling the audience to go @#$% themselves. It's as if we are being made fun of for actually caring about Davis this whole time. We are shown that he really doesn't care about anyone but himself. So, why should we care? The end wraps this up, where Davis is playing on a night when the New York Times is in attendance. Davis performs passionately, for what seems like the first time. But, as it turns out, Bob Dylan follows Davis, on the historic night when Dylan received a positive review from the Times. So, we are led to believe that Dylan is the one discovered, while Davis is again left out in the cold.

I don't know if this film is supposed to be challenging somehow, or if it is just purposely depressing. My guess is that it is supposed to be depressing. I don't think that the Coen's really care about their audience in this circumstance. It is only that I saw the movie at a free preview that I'm not more agitated.

As for the rest of the movie, the music is good, but fairly low key. T. Bone Burnett, the man behind the music in films like "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," does well again here. But, the music isn't as memorable.

The cinematography in many recent Coen films has been by the great Roger Deakins. Here, it is by Bruno Delbonnel. It has heavily desaturated color, and is pretty diffused. So, it isn't at all attractive.

I would avoid this film until it is on disc or on cable. Paying $13 or whatever to see it is way too much. I am glad that my cost was $0. That seems like an appropriate amount.

**1/2 (2 1/2 Out of 5 Stars)

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Restaurant Review - Panera Bread - Cordova, TN

Location: 714 Germantown Parkway, Cordova, TN 38018

Reasonable Coffee Bar

I had been wanting to stop here for a while. But, it always seemed like I got there too late! When I did get there when they were open, I got there when a particularly agitated woman was going on and on about the exact way her tea was to be prepared. Lord!

After that finally ended, I was able to get my Cafe au Lait. It was fine, pretty straight forward. They serve it with a small chocolate bar, which is nice. I would consider the coffee average, the service a bit scattered, and the atmosphere average.

Rating: 3 / 5 (3 Out of 5 Stars)

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Bonnie & Clyde" - TV Review

Site: "Bonnie & Clyde" - A&E

The much-hyped TV movie, "Bonnie & Clyde," is a mix of the good and the bad. There is excellent cinematography, sound design, and performance by William Hurt. But, there is also the excessive artistic license and lack of historical accuracy.

The result is a mixed bag that can't be either recommended or asked to be be avoided. The movie takes the view that Bonnie Parker was the instigator of everything that went on. She is portrayed as someone who is desperate for glory and is willing to sacrifice whomever has to be sacrificed to get what she wants. This runs counter to what history says, that Clyde Barrow was a criminal with little regard for human life, and was going to do whatever necessary so that he did not go back to prison.

The movie was shown in two parts. The first centered a lot on Barrow's experiences in prison, including being raped, which is particularly grisly. You used to have to go to a dark, R-rated film like "Deliverance" for that, but now you can see it on TV! There is a fair amount of bloody violence and PG-rated language. This most likely would be a fairly strong PG-13 or lower-level R, if it were in theaters.

The first part is mostly preamble, and not very interesting preamble at that. The second part is where the movie goes into high gear, with all the shootings and graphic violence I am guessing people came for. The highlight, though, is a great performance by William Hurt! When I saw him in the cast, I was very hopeful, since he just gave an excellent performance in the Discovery Channel film, "The Challenger Disaster." Here, he gets down and dirty as a determined crime fighter, who has no problems killing whomever he gets a chance to, or to union bust for greedy corporations. His telling of why he's come out of retirement to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde to a colleague is chilling.

After four hours, including commercials, the ending to the film comes so suddenly, you wonder how they could spend those four hours on all that came before it, and only spend a few minutes on the ending. Very bizarre!

The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, who most famously directed "Breaker Morant" and "Driving Miss Daisy." Here, he makes the most of the script he has been given. The cinematography is excellent! Some of the best I have seen on TV in recent memory. The sound design is excellent and is striking through a good stereo set up. There are some real irritants here, though. John Debney's film score is pretty bad, only working well in the final 40 minutes of the production. The performance by the lady playing the exploitative newspaper woman is highly irritating. The voice over by Clyde, as with all voice overs, demonstrates laziness by the screenwriters. It usually shows a lack of imagination to use cinematic techniques to show what's happening, and instead just tell us with the voice over. Clyde's "second sight" construct by the screenwriters, in which he sees events before they happen is odd, but ironically provides some of the rare cinematic quality the film needed.

In the end, stylized tellings of history can work, when they are done well. Such was the case with Arthur Penn's classic version of the story from 1967. And, was also the case with the Brian De Palma-directed, David Mamet-scripted "The Untouchables" from 1987. There were definite historic liberties taken in both cases. But, since both films were so masterfully done, it doesn't matter! We know that neither was trying to be a documentary from the get go, so it's okay. We know that there are resources where we can learn the true story. The films are there as art, and great art at that. This TV movie definitely doesn't get there, though. And, that's the difference.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Yelp - Why I'm Quitting

Yelp portrays itself as a community-driven organization that wants you to believe that it is all about reviewers helping customers make informed decisions about where to shop, eat, etc. But, in reality, Yelp is as cold a corporation as any other. They don't care about you as a user. Their objective is to take the free content you provide, then treat you however they want.

I was made part of their Yelp Elite program for two years. This is where you are invited to special get togethers. But, just as quickly as you are made part of that program, you can be pulled just as quickly.

So was the case this year. When I wanted to post a review of a Yelp Elite event, there was no page for it, as was usually the case. So, I posted my review on the Yelp restaurant page where the event was held. My review was quickly pulled, with a rebuke from the city's Community Manager.

When I questioned this, I was met with derision from that manager. Then, soon after, my Elite status was pulled. I personally do not think this is a coincidence.

When you post reviews of businesses for Yelp, TripAdvisor or whomever, you are providing content for free. They are getting you to provide them with the material that keeps their site going and growing. In exchange for that, you should at least be treated reasonably by that company. But, that isn't the case. You are essentially being treated as a sucker for giving them that free content.

So, why give them anything? There is no reason. And, I am not going to contribute to Yelp any more. Furthermore, I am pulling my reviews and photos from their site. I will instead be posting them here. My content should be going to my site. And, if there is anyone to receive benefit from these reviews, it should be me. I am the author of the reviews, so I should receive the clicks to the ads on my site, and receive the revenue from those clicks.

Why give something to someone when you can't even be treated with basic respect in return? There is no reason.

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Star Wars" on Instagram!

Account: Star Wars - Instagram

"Star Wars" has hit Instagram! And, their first photo? Yes, a Darth Vader selfie! Too funny.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Nexus 7 - A User's Guide - Basics

NOTE: There is NO microSD card slot!

Keep that in mind, because I didn't think about it, and now I have a 16 GB tablet that has 12 GB of usable memory. But, there are solutions, and I will go into that later.

I decided on a Wifi tablet because I saw how much it would cost to get something like a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Verizon. It would cost $70/month over and above the current cell phone bill, plus the $299 cost for the device. Plus, you have the usual 24-month committment.

So, in just more than three months of that extra cell phone cost, the $229 Nexus 7 16GB tablet will have been paid off. Since I would rarely use the 4G data connection via Verizon, I would be fine with the Wifi tablet.

I ordered the tablet in too much of a hurry, I guess! Because I missed the little tidbit about the Nexus 7 not having the microSD slot. The 16GB was $229, the 32GB was $269. So, it's $40 for the extra 16GB, which is fairly expensive. But, I guess I just thought, of course it will have a microSD card slot! Cell phones have them, even years-old models. But, Google begged to differ, and decided it would be too stingy and skip the slot. Plus, I found out that it wasn't only Google. Apple's new $399 version of the iPad Mini won't have one either.

Why is this the case? I think that tablet users are being penalized just for the fact that we aren't spending all the extra money on using cell services. You don't get the microSD slot, and you get a more basic camera than on the smaller smartphones. Not surprisingly, I think that's a rip off.

With the more limited memory, I would have to right away think about maximizing space. Any movies would have to be small in size. Music would have to be 320Kb/s MP3 maximum. So, the CD rips I've made in lossless FLAC mode would have to be converted to MP3 or re-ripped.

Apps aren't too much of a concern. Most apps are usually no larger than 25MB or so. But, there are some that are 1GB, like EA Sports' Madden 25. So, that would be a consideration.

What to do about space, then? What is good about the connector to the Nexus 7 is that it is a microUSB connector. So, a microUSB connector will be the starting point. There are cables that go microUSB to USB. Then, you plug a USB card reader into that USB. So, with two pieces you get to the point where you can plug the microSD, or regular SD card, in.

I have a compact SanDisk SD card reader already. Plus, I have the 32GB microSD card I bought in (mistaken!) anticipation of using it on the Nexus 7. So, getting the cable will make the rest happen. Meanwhile, I will keep what's stored on the Nexus 7's internal memory to apps, music, and whatever photos I might take. Any movies would have to go on the external memory.

In the next installment, I will talk about the Nexus 7's version of the Android Operating System, and what apps need to be installed as a result.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

New Photos! - Cooper Young in Memphis

Photos: Cooper Young - flickr

I have posted new photos to my flickr page! They are from my photo shoot in the Cooper Young district of Memphis, Tennessee.

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New Billboard Tracks Planes!

See It!: Piccadilly Circus Billboard - British Airways

A video billboard in London's Piccadilly Circus features a child pointing to actual aircraft flying overhead, and telling passersby what flight it is.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

"Need for Speed" - Trailer 2

Trailer: "Need for Speed" Trailer 2 - Dreamworks

The second trailer is out for "Need for Speed!" I am not exactly sure why, but I am really looking forward to this movie! It seems very well made and dynamic.

"Need for Speed" premieres March 14, 2014.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

New Photos! - West Tennessee Skydiving

Photos: West Tennessee Skydiving - flickr

I have posted new photos to my flickr page! They are from my photo shoots at West Tennessee Skydiving this June.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

"The Lego Movie" - First Trailer

Trailer: "The Lego Movie"  - Warner Bros.

Lego's come alive in the first full trailer for "The Lego Movie!" And, you can tell that the filmmakers are having a whole lotta fun with Batman!

"The Lego Movie" premieres February 7, 2014.

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"Gravity" Movie Posters

Posters: "Gravity" Movie Posters - flickr

I have posted the six movie posters from "Gravity" on my flickr page! It is interesting to see how the artists were trying to figure how to market this film.

I am getting back onto flickr, and will be posting new photos soon!

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Gravity" Film Review

Trailer: "Gravity" Trailer - Warner Bros.

Excellent suspense film! Even though there is the Science-Fiction backdrop, the movie is, at its heart, a suspense film, as two astronauts try to survive after their shuttle gets hit by space debris. As seen in the trailer, we spend a good amount of time following Sandra Bullock's character. And, thus, the film ends up being kind of like "The Perils of Pauline," with Bullock going from one calamity to another!

The Visual Effects are very impressive! But, what makes the film work is director Alfonso Cuarón. He directed what I think is easily the best of the "Harry Potter" movies, "The Prisoner of Azkaban." He treats his characters as humans, instead of just playing pieces on a game board. What he does is to not get himself too caught up in the Science-Fiction and Fantasy genres. He sees the humanity in the characters, and that's what makes his films work.

The 3-D is very cool! The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is excellent. He shot "The Tree of Life," and has been working with director Terrence Malick on his past few films.

What I didn't like was the film score by Steven Price. He has done a few films, but while he gets the tone just right in many of the quieter sequences, he gets quite overwrought in the action sequences. That bothered me, and distracted me. I would have preferred a composer like Tangerine Dream, who worked on films like William Friedkin's "Sorcerer" in 1977 and Michael Mann's "Thief" in 1981 and are still active today.

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