First Great Theatrical Experience of 2017 — KONG : SKULL ISLAND in 3D!

It takes a lot to get me out to the theater these days. 2016 was one of my most anemic theater going years. Having only seen a couple movies in the theater (among them the excellent CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR).

The slow movie going year could be linked to several reasons, some personal and singular, and some endemic of larger more encompassing perspectives.

The rise of Netflix and Streaming options has brought cinema quality programming to your living room or bedroom, around your schedule. So no trying to make your schedule fit around a movie showing, and all the baggage of parking, and seats, and annoying crowds, and of course the expense.

So for those reasons and others the theater wasn’t top on my list in 2016.

2017 and I’m incentivized to see quite a few movies in the theater. One reason is the reopening of one of my favorite regional movie theaters, as an upscale adults only dinner and a movie venue.

Perfect for couples or close friends, I decided to check out a matinee showing of KONG : SKULL ISLAND over other available options at this theater (such as LOGAN and JOHN WICK II and GET OUT, all of which I intend to see) for the main reason I wanted to test out the spectacle and 3D quality of this new theater, and what better way than a loud, explosive, monster movie.

So I reserved my seats, picking the perfect seats of course, and quite impressed with their meal and drink menu. Forget the overpriced artery clogging Popcorn and Hotdogs and Candy that comprises the fare of your typical theater, this theater offered a full and quite impressive meal and drink menu, brought to your spacious clean, well kept seats, no less. We had the crabcakes, bistro burger, korean wings, with a Berry Blast drink for me and a Mocha Latte for her. And did I mention the excellent attentive service.

So we are planted in front our huge curved screen, it’s a matinee showing so not only do we have our whole row free, we have our whole section free, with probably a total of less than 20 people in the large yet intimate theater. Meaning the theater and screen is large, but the number of seats are few.

So that’s the setup. What about the movie?

The best part of the Peter Jackson 2005 KING KONG movie, was the one hour period on the island (once we get past Peter Jackson’s annoying portrayal of Native Life as monstrous, evil and subhuman), that one hour was fantastic sequences of monster and Kong Mayhem, and should have been the whole movie.

Once that movie leaves the island it loses all interest and excitement, crawling toward a tepid ending.

KONG:SKULL ISLAND, 12 years after Peter Jackson’s mistake, learns admirably from the flaws of his film, crafting an entire movie on Kong’s home, the Island of Monsters, Skull Island, and it is absolutely kick-ass!

The idea to set it in 1973, at a pivotal time for America and the World, I thought was a stroke of genius and gives real motivation to Samuel L. Jackson’s Ahab inclined character, who see’s in the monster of Kong, this fight, a chance to win the war that he was denied, to change shame into glory. I like the opening, the setup to the actual Mayhem that is Kong, quite a bit, which says a lot about the quality of the filmmaker and the film.

Usually the least interesting part of any monster movie, is the prelude to the appearance of the Monster, when you have to endure boring cardboard characters killing time. That was the issue with the GODZILLA movie by the producers of this film, it was mostly setup and concentration on the human drama, but the humans and the human drama in that movie was as of much interest as watching paint dry.

Here, the setup and the characters feel fleshed out and earned, and part of that is grounding these soldiers in 1973. Survivors, but somehow not victors. Going from one barely war abroad, to a frightening barely understood war at home awaiting them, Skull Island, is very much a reprieve to Jackson’s Colonel. And the men under him, caught in the machinations of dreams of Glory, well they are understood to.

And all the characters are quickly enlisted for this obscure mission, all powerful, compelling actors, not a Jack Black insight. But actors all who can compel and own their time onscreen… their closeups. So I’m thoroughly entertained and into the movie, before Kong goes Ape, so to speak. And when he does go Ape… it is… EPIC!!!

This is why Theaters have value in an age of Netflix and Home Theaters, because a home theater is no match for a commercial theater when you have no annoying audience to deal with, this was the fury of Kong unleashed… this was spectacle, this was Blockbuster, and this was worth every penny paid!

Should you see it in 3D? I typically find 3D is a wasted expense in most situations. I think it is expertly done here, and is really the type of movie that cries out for really good 3D. KONG is really good use of 3D, and I think like AVATAR is a must see in 3D!

KONG is only the second feature film of Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, nothing in his filmography would indicate he could handle a big budget blockbuster of a monster movie, but much like the Russo Brothers of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame (who also came out of feature film obscurity) Roberts rises to the occasion, shattering expectations.

I loved this movie from beginning to end. It blows away recent failures such as GODZILLA and the aforementioned KING KONG, and bodes well for future films. Stay past the trailer for a nice Marvel style Easter Egg.

Grade: A solid and easy B+!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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Movie Review : STAR TREK BEYOND… Great or Badly Flawed??!!

STAR TREK BEYOND – As a rule I avoid trailers for movies I know I’m going to see. Like CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR or STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, I knew STAR TREK BEYOND was a movie I knew I was going to see, so I wanted to go into the film, and be as blank a slate as possible, not basically pre-watching the film before the film.

It has worked with me for other films. Loved CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR, liked STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS.

With STAR TREK BEYOND  I  did manage to catch one trailer, the one with the mortorcycle and music that caused something of a negative pushback online, but for myself I thought it was fine. Not a great trailer, but an okay one.

The movie, finally seen, in a solid, nearly empty theater with great picture, and great sound (2D not 3D) and verdict?… I enjoyed it. I think the look of it was fantastic, the beginning and middle solid. Some good performances and fun scenes. It’s a nice, if flawed, addition to these new STAR TREK films.

Why flawed?

To explain that I’m going to have to get into specifics, as in spoiler theory. But a quick nonspoiler take on STAR TREK BEYOND… if you haven’t already seen it in the theater, save money and wait for it on streaming or for rent.  A cheap rental.

Okay that sounds harsh for a movie that I thought started off very strongly. Okay here is some detail to explain my feelings. To avoid spoilers skip everything except the last paragraph, and come back after you’ve seen it.

Here we go:

 

An action movie ultimately is defined by the quality of the conflict, the quality of the conflict that opposes our heroes, the quality of the antagonist. STAR TREK BEYOND has a great actor, Idress Elba, who is completely wasted;  who is given a largely mediocre and nonsensical role, and motivation.

You have an antagonist that in one of the film’s most memorable scenes early in the picture, shows he possesses a weapon that can kick serious ass. But instead of using this awesome weapon for achieving his vengeance, he… for over a hundred years… only uses this devastating weapon, to pirate other ships, in an attempt to find a so-called ultimate weapon.

That weapon when found is unimpressive piece of nonsense, compared to the weapon he already had at his disposal.

It’s like somebody who wants to take revenge against the people he blames for his family’s death, armed with a machine gun, who instead of taking this machine gun and getting his vengeance immediately, spends over a hundred years carjacking  people in the hopes of finding a different ultimate  weapon, and that weapon when found, turns out to be a yo-yo or slingshot.

It’s that much of a let down and disappointment, compared to the weapon he already had.

It makes no sense and delivers a flawed and weak and toothless ending.  How no one in production could see this glaring issue with the plot/script is baffling.

And speaking of weak, why would our antagonist, this eater of life… be getting weaker after consuming lives? Each life should be making him stronger.

So on top of this dud of a doomsday weapon, this antagonist himself at the ‘climax’ Of the film, for no conceivable good reason… is a weak, crying, easily beaten, and more than a bit rubbish, whiner.

The actors do the best they can with this, but the writing /plot ultimately lets them down. This one falls squarely at the feet of the writer, Simon Pegg, who writes everything well except the most important thing to get right, the villain and the villains motivations.

I thought the first rebooted STAR TREK film was great. In many ways it is STAR WARS done better than STAR WARS, possessing as it does that EMPIRE STRIKES BACK vibe. It is a solid A-.

I thought the 2nd one, while it had deeper pitfalls than the 1st film, the poor idea to try to cleave too close to WRATH OF KAHN, also had higher peaks. And as a whole I think it is masterful, it just edges  out the first film being a solid A-/A.

END SPOILERS

 

This third one I was enjoying till the whole idiocy of the  ‘doomsday weapon’ and the poorly written antagonist and final act. Whereas I can rewatch the first two reboot STAR TREK movies constantly, and proudly own both Blu-Rays, I have no desire to sit though this 3rd movie ever again.

Grade: C-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROTD: Binaural Recording of the Day! Installment One!

Binaural recording is a 100 year old, mostly underused method, for providing immersive 3D sound recording AND playback with no need for consumer post processing or decoding, ala Dolby Surround.

I discovered Binaural recordings probably 10 years ago, and have been a fan ever since. The early Stephen King MIST CD (love the story and audio book, hate the movie, mostly due to Frank Darabont’s changes and excesses in group dynamics, creating caricatures rather than characters) and Clive Barker’s INHUMAN CONDITION sold under the moniker 3D Audio, being my first introduction to the wonders of Binaural.

 

“Suspended in a haze of terror, humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction!

Stephen King’s sinister imagination and the miracle of 3-D sound transport you to a hot, lazy day in a sleepy all-American town — where a sudden, violent storm leaves behind a mysterious mist that traps you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world.

The Mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. The Mist has you in its grip, and this masterpiece of 3-D sound engineering surrounds you with horror so real that you’ll be grabbing your own arm for reassurance. To one side — and whipping around your chair, a slither of tentacles. Swooping down upon you, a rush of grotesque, prehistoric wings. In the impenetrable mist, hearing is seeing — and believing. And what you’re about to hear, you’ll never forget.”

—THE MIST in 3D Sound

I immediately became hooked, but aside from those two audio books, and a handful of special effects and music CDs, Binaural never became embraced by the music or audio book market.

I always related that locking out of binaural with Dolby having defined the defacto surround standard for the theatrical and home markets; and receiver and CD and DVD and speaker manufacturers, having a vested interest in selling dolby post processing hardware and equipment.

Whereas with Binaural, you can cut all of that out, replace all of it on the consumers end, with nothing more than a pair of regular headphones.

Thankfully through the internet and other binaural lovers recording and sharing their city soundscapes, binaural has stayed alive. Allowing any person with the desire to download and a pair of headphones, the ability to experience, relive, a moment in someones’s walk through the streets of Paris, or Sweden, or New York; to experience what Alan Moore called “dream cities of the mind”.

And showing  everything old is new again, Binaural is finally being embraced (for its cost benefits and 3D soundstage) by virtual headset manufacturers and game designers, who are seeking an effective way to add surround sound  to their headsets without licensing or reguiring expensive post production decoding.

Add to that a new wave of affordable binaural microphones (the one part of Binaural that is not cheap, is cost of the recording heads. You can see some pricing here. So these new cost effective mics, come as a real boon.) and binaural recording is well on its way to being far more accessible.

VERGE coverage on Binaural for 2016!

So BROTD will be a reoccuring feature of this blog, shouting out impressive Binaural recordings or sites I’ve come across. And without further ado, this installments winner is (drumroll please)….

SOUNDLANDSCAPES BLOG – This website features various recording of Paris street life, and these are excellent recordings. You close your eyes and you are there, virtual reality of a sort, without the million dollar price tag. Just a stereo recording of microphones placed where the human ears woud be, and the motion through, or within a crowd, and listened to via headphones… and you have something not quite unlike magic.

 

Listen to this site’s great recording in your podcast player of choice using this RSS feed: https://soundlandscapes.wordpress.com/feed/

And a great recording to start with is the latest episode in their feed, described below by the Blog owner and recorder… Des:

Every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday an indoor market, housed in the 19th century Grande Halle, opens for business and an outdoor market appears on Place Jean-Jaures and in the surrounding streets.

Marché de Saint-Denis

The outdoor market is rather like an African souk selling everything from clothes and fabrics to a range of footwear, cosmetics, bags, clay cooking pots and other assorted household goods, tools and plants, as well as some high-end, branded goods at suspiciously low prices.

But for me, the indoor market inside the Grande Halle is the main attraction. With its sights, sounds and exotic smells, visiting the Grande Halle is a multi-sensory experience not to be missed.

The sound recording is fantastic, and i higly recommend you subscribing to Des’ site via the above feed. Oh and if unsure what podcatcher to use, on the tablet side PODCAST ADDICT is a good one, on the laptop/desktop side GPODDER is a very good one.

If you liked this post and want to see more Binaural coverage toss me some likes, and use the links below to get some great binaural recordings (every purchase helps support this blog and is greatly appreciated. You get introduced to great items, and we get a couple pennies 🙂 ).

 

The Mist Movie Tie-In: In 3 D Sound

From the Caves of the Iron Mountain

Movie of the Day : STAR WARS VII FORCE AWAKENS in IMAX Laser 3D!

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After 2 years of hype the most eagerly anticipated film in years has arrived, STAR WARS VII THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I saw it at the Airbus IMAX in Chantilly, Virginia voted one of the 7 best theaters in the United States.

No less than the director JJ Abrams praised IMAX 3D Laser Projection as the preferred way to see this years in the making labor of love. He said of STAR WARS VII in a recent associated press interview:

ABRAMS: As someone who really hasn’t been the most vocal advocate of 3-D, the strangest thing happened to me on this. When I was watching the reels in 3-D, there were a number of shots — and I know this sounds insane — that I hadn’t understood in the three-dimensional space quite the way I did when I saw them in 3-D. I actually felt that there were things that were playing better in 3-D. I had never felt that before. And if people have access to a theater that has laser projection, it is shockingly better.

Having seen the film at the 86 foot wide Airbus IMAX, with their newly installed 3D Laser Projection system I have to say… It lived up to the hype.

The screen, the 3d projection system, blew me away. Initially it was so big and so overpowering, that it was daunting. It was so much visual imagery and information going on in every part of the picture, that I found my head going back and forth trying to take the scene in.

Because of how that IMAX room is built, there is not a bad seat in the house. The seats rather than going out away from the screen as most theaters, are closer to the screen and go up, giving the effect that you are almost in the screen, immersed in the screen rather than just watching it.

And adding 3D to the mix and the film is cinema cranked up to 11. That said, it takes a few minutes but suddenly you are grasping all the information your visual cortex is being sent, and there is no more playing ping pong. It becomes a completely immersive, and not at all distracting experience, as 3D can be. Sometimes when wearing those glasses the screen is too dark, not so here, the picture came across as if there were no glasses at all. No doubt this has to do with the far more substantial glasses you get at this IMAX. Not the simplistic RealD glasses.

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All in all, the visuals were stellar. One of my most impressive and memorable screen viewings, right up there with seeing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm and seeing Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX. Now the 3D isn’t the spectacle AVATAR was, with things coming out of the screen at you, and while part of this is no doubt because STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS was not filmed in 3D or with 3D in mind, the sheer scale and majesty and clarity of projection via IMAX 3D Laser is a spectacle and wonder of its own. Rather than just looking at the screen, IMAX 3D Laser makes you feel as if you are in the frame. It’s a naturalistic and very cinematic effect, that transcends/eliminates the issues some people have with 3D. IMAX 3D Laser at the Airbus IMAX transcends gimmick to deliver an effortless viewing experience, and a rewarding cinematic one and comes highly recommended.

Now I’ve spent all this article discussing how STAR WARS VII is presented, but now a few words on the movie itself. My verdict? JJ Abrams had the unenviable task of living up to the expectations of fans of one of the most iconic film franchises in the world. To his credit he and his crew of writers, actors, etc, were in this humble writer’s opinion up to the task. The movie was a follow-up to a beloved franchise that (prequels aside) ended over thirty plus years ago, and much as he did for STAR TREK he was able to integrate the new and the old in a way that completely captured and paid homage to, what was best in what we’ve come to know as STAR WARS.

I love that the main principals from the original movies, were not only available to return, but were so brilliantly written into this latest chapter. It’s a smart script, that is also inventive, action packed, and satisfying, and leaves the future of Star Wars in good hands indeed.

While it falls short of being a great movie, the film is a solid entry in the Star Wars cannon, being only second to the great EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Grade B+.

 

 

These are a few of my favorite things : Amazon Prime DEALS OF THE DAY!

 

 

 

The Best of EC Artist Edition Vol 1 Hardcover – 2013

 

EC Comics is arguably the finest line of comics ever produced. Whether it was science fiction or war, crime or horror, their entire line stood head and shoulders above the rest of the comics on the newsstands. Now IDW Publishing is pleased to present an Artist’s Edition unlike any other, featuring the best stories by the brightest stars of EC Comics. Remember these classics? 50 Girls 50 by Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta, The Corpse on the Imjin by Harvey Kurtzman, The Flying Machine by Bernie Krigstein, Touch and Go by Johnny Craig, Judgment Day by Joe Orlando. All these plus more! And a stunning cover gallery crammed with glorious EC goodness! Brought to you by the same team responsible for the Eisner Award-winning Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again: Artist’s Edition.

The Best of EC Artist Edition Vol 1 – Price your copy here!

 

 

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New-York Historical Society New York City in 3D In The Gilded Age: A Book Plus Stereoscopic Viewer and 50 3D Photos from the Turn of the Century Paperback – June 3, 2014

Be transported to New York during the Gilded Age and experience daily life in one of the world’s most vibrant cities through mesmerizing, contemporary 3D photography and exciting tales of the time.

Black Dog & Leventhal has partnered with the New-York Historical Society to present New York in the Gilded Age as it’s never been viewed before. This innovative package includes a sturdy metal stereoscopic viewer and 50 stereoscopic photographs of turn-of-the-century New York. The package also includes a 128-page paperback that provides a brief history of the stereograph craze and an overview of the city’s evolution during that time.

New-York Historical Society New York City in 3D In The Gilded Age: A Book Plus Stereoscopic Viewer and 50 3D Photos from the Turn of the Century

 

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Paris in 3D in the Belle Époque: A Book Plus Steroeoscopic Viewer and 34 3D Photos Paperback – April 14, 2015

 

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Gustave Dore 1832-1883: Master of Imagination Hardcover – June 10, 2014

The diverse oeuvre of Gustave Doré—illustrations, paintings, sculpture—combines with biography and critical essays and attests to the artist’s enduring impact on contemporary culture. Proclaimed “the most illustrious of illustrators,” Gustave Doré is best known for his engravings, which appeared in editions of the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Poe’s The Raven, The Adventures of Don Quixote, and even in Hollywood, from King Kong to Seven. Yet the extent of his genius remains largely unknown. Here, along with his renowned illustrations, his paintings and sculptures are also examined, bringing to light the rich diversity of his talent. Using watercolor, vivid oil paint, or sculpture, he demonstrated mastery in a vast scope of media, and in treatments ranging from monumental historical tableaux to landscapes to modest compositions. His work transcended techniques and eras, covering an inexhaustible range of subjects from Europe to the United States to Russia and revealing his insatiable curiosity. This comprehensive monograph accompanies an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from February 18–May 11 and at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from June 12–September 14, 2014.

Gustave Dore 1832-1883: Master of Imagination – Price it Here!

AVENGERS : AGE OF ULTRON RealD 3D Review!

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Three years in the making, since the box office shattering and acclaimed first AVENGERS film, Joss Whedon’s hungrily awaited follow-up AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON has arrived.

So being a fan of the first film, I was happy to make it down to one of the better and newest theaters to see this film in RealD 3D. I’m not typically an advocate for 3D films, but 3D post processing on the Marvel Studio films has been very good.

So I plunked down the requisite coin and entered the theatrical showing of the AGE OF ULTRON, and quick thoughts? I quite enjoyed it. It wasn’t the masterwork that the first film was, but that was lightning in a bottle and very hard to recapture. This is a solid follow-up, with characters you’ve come to like, played ably by actors that have become household names, and a solid and inventive and witty script that hits all the requisite points.

World ending threats? Check. Cool Villains? Check. Astounding set pieces and fight scenes? Check. Witty repartee and good natured bickering? Check. Budding romance and Scarlett Johanson in skin-tight and fetching uniforms? Check and Check! 🙂 And moments of pathos and heroism? Check. And fun immersive 3D? Check.

All together Joss Whedon weaves together a 2+ hour blockbuster, a spectacle that is worthy of the big-screen, theatrical experience. That said it is not perfect. It lacks the immediate watchability and crowd pleasing nature of the first, oh it has its moments to be sure, but you’re not going to leave this AVENGERS movie immediately ready to see it again like its predecessor.

This film after one viewing you’re more than content to wait for it to hit Blu-Ray before watching it again. And I think on Blu-Ray it is a perfect format for really appreciating the immense work that goes into the battle scenes.

So all in all a worthy film to get you in the theaters. Grade: B+.

Movie News: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is it worth seeing in 3D?


Marvel Studios 10th feature film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is breaking on American shores this weekend, and the decision people have to make is… ‘is it worth seeing in theaters and more specifically, is it worth seeing in 3D?’

Well, dealing with the broader questions first, whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Movies, you really have to tip your cap to Kevin Feige and the whole Marvel Studios machine for really doing what seemed if not impossible, highly farfetched; namely creating a critically and commercially successful movie empire based on the shared universe approach of comic books.

It, in many ways, is the return of serial movies, the type popular in the 1930s and 1940s, but done on a massive scale, undreamed of by those low budget quickies of yesteryear.

And Marvel Studios films have managed to be not only popular, but entertaining, sometimes impressively so. I would list their movies from best to worst as:

AVENGERS
CAPTAIN AMERICA WINTER SOLDIER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
IRON MAN
HULK

IRON MAN 2
THOR
IRON MAN 3
THOR 2

And now their 10th film, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, is poised to carve out their place on the above list. I find myself largely uninterested in the film. Nothing about the premise, the characters, or the one trailer I’ve seen intrigues me at all. Add to that they have an unimpressive ‘Before the Window’ 3D rating from CINEMA BLEND, like all previous Marvel Movies, and it is no incentive to see this in 3D.

But what does stand out in opposition to all that disinterest is the director, James Gunn. James Gunn like many of the directors Marvel picks, lacks any pedigree in the action or blockbuster genre, but like other directors chosen, they have a personality to the films they have directed, and a way with actors and characters, they have glimmerings of potential.

I enjoyed James Gunn’s SLITHER and I do think Marvel Studios helmed by Kevin Feige have been nothing short of phenomenal in picking talent both in front of and behind the camera. For all the heat their choices engender prior to the film, their unconventional choices have proven movie after movie, to be great.

And it is hard to argue with great. I have no interest in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as a concept or as characters, but I am interested in seeing James Gunn do a big, fun, space hopping action picture.

So verdict: I’ll catch GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY on a matinee, or 2nd run, without 3D

Hopes this helps anyone on the fence, and feel free to chime in with your opinions. ENJOY!