September 30, 2004

Jack Daniel's Gets Watered Down!

I've enjoyed Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 for years, but I've just found out that they're reducing the alcohol content.

First off, Jack gets water added to it as soon as it comes out of the barrel, taking it down from over 120 proof (60% alcohol).

Over 15 years ago, the makers of Jack Daniel's decided to reduce the finished product from 90 proof to 86 proof. Now, they've snuck in another reduction, so what you're buying right now is only 80 proof (or 40% alcohol).

They do this by adding water.

I signed this online petition aimed at bringing Old No. 7 brand back to its original alcohol content. At the time I signed there were over 1300 signatures. So get on there and sign that petition and (dare I say it?) boycott Jack Daniel's!

September 27, 2004

Hail To The King Baby!

December 14th is the release date for the extended version of The Return Of The King, the third and final chapter of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

As my good friends know, I'm a very patient man when it comes to these type of DVD releases - I'd rather wait for the Special Edition or Director's Cut, as opposed to rushing out and buying the initial feature-light edition. I suppose the one exception to this was Kill Bill, I decided both movies were so good that I wouldn't miss whatever gets included in the (eventual) SE.

Anyway, as usual I dug up the goods on the aforementioned extended release, here's what they've added to The Return Of The King:

- Saruman laying waste to the Shire at the end, as happened in the original book. (For those of you not in the know, there's a bit of foreshadowing when Frodo gazes into the Elven pool in Fellowship Of The Ring)

- The Mouth of Sauron greets Aragorn and friends at the Black Gates. (For the uninitiated, this is a person and not a set of fiery lips.)

- Director Steve Jackson cameos as a pirate who gets shot by Legolas

- And for the ladies, a bit of romance between Faramir and Eowyn.

All told, we're talking 50 additional minutes here. I'm very pleased to see the Mouth of Sauron makes the final cut, and am very happy to see the Shire getting worked over...on some level this pleases me in the same way that watching an Ewok get blasted by an Imperial Scout Walker does.

Oh, and the Special Special Edition includes a miniature of Minas Tirith.

September 18, 2004

Shawn Of The Dead

I just saw a sneak preview of Shawn Of The Dead - and let me tell you, it's a scream!

For those of you not in the know, this is a British zombie movie that doubles as a comedy. Shawn is just your average bloke who works in retail, drinks beer, plays video games with his flatmate, and has troubles with his girlfriend...until one day when the recently dead come back to eat the living.

Okay, I know what you're thinking - whenever comedy and horror get mixed, the result is Scary Movie, Beetlejuice, or (heaven help us) Arachniphobia. But here's where this one is different, it's British. So instead of over-the-top American humor (where everything and everyone is goofy), we get clever British wit. If you still can't quite grasp this, try combining in your head Dawn Of The Dead with the cleverness of Monty Python (though there is just a bit of outright silliness).

There is one other difference between this and other horror or comedy films, the characters are fairly well developed. They're not the usual cardboard cutouts or oversexed teens we're used to seeing in these kinds of movies, they actually have lives and real problems.

There's something in this film for everyone. The horror fans get their pound of flesh, there's even one scene where a victim gets torn apart by a swarm of zombies, ala the motorcycle guy from Dawn Of The Dead. Other than that the gore is spurting blood and flesh wounds. The real genius (yes, I'm applying the word genius to a horror film) is in how the main characters deal with it in their own boyish sort of way, say by going through a vinyl record collection to find bad albums to throw at the zombies. There are so many funny bits that I can't even try to count them...even in the midst of terror there's well placed humor and belly laughs.

September 15, 2004

Some Things You Should Know About the Star Wars Trilogy DVD Set

So the original trilogy is finally coming to DVD. But wait, this isn't your daddy's 1977-1983 theatrical version...nor is it the 1999 Special Edition. This is an updated and retouched Special Edition, or maybe we should just call it the Current Edition since Lucas seems hell bent on updating these films every chance he gets.

Okay, I was very bitter after seeing the Special Edition. I've purchased every edition of the films that had been released up to that point, from the original VHS, the widescreen VHS boxed set, and the digitally remastered VHS widescreen. But the Special Edition really angered me for some reason, maybe because some of the effects were so terribly bad: Jabba the Hutt showing up in Episode IV, also Greedo shooting first and Han's jerky head movement to dodge the shot.

There were also some things very nicely done in the Special Edition, most notably the X-Wing fight in Episode IV was brought up to "attack speed" (now the effects match the other films) and the addition of windows in the cramped Cloud City hallways of Empire.

All is not lost, perhaps this DVD release is a new hope after all :-) I actually took some time to do some research, and came up with some interesting data.

Okay kids, let me break this down movie by movie...

Episode IV - A New Hope (or, as we old fans know it, simply Star Wars):
This one got the most changes, just like in the Special Edition. But considering this was shot using 2001: A Space Odyssey style effects, this film needs the most help fitting in with the other films. A lot of changes are small, such as the scene with Luke's Landspeeder entering Mos Eisley. I'm assuming they kept the ring around the exploding Death Star (added in the Special Edition).

Han Solo meets Greedo - now they shoot practically simultaneously (as opposed to Solo shooting first in the original version, or Greedo in the Special Edition). Also, Han's entire upper body now shifts slightly to avoid the shot.

Han Solo meets Jabba the Hutt - looks like they used the digital Jabba from Episode I, which looks a lot better than the digital claymation from the Special Edition...or the fat guy in the furs from the original (cut) footage!

Lightsabers - they're all redone to look more like the newer films. This is cool, especially in the final fight (in the original version there's one shot of Obi-Wan's lightsaber where it looks like a fiber optic tube).

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back:
I'm assuming they kept all the Cloud City windows added in the Special Edition, but can't find anything on that.

Emperor - not only is his hologram reshot with actor Ian McDiarmid (who plays the Emperor in all the other movies), but there's also a small dialogue change:
EMPEROR: surmises that "the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star" is the son of Anakin
VADER: "How is that possible?"

Boba Fett - they changed the voice, using actor Temuera Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Episode II). Presumably this is because he's a clone...or maybe Lucas has decided there are "no smoking" laws throughout the Empire, so his voice shouldn't be so raspy. I don't know and have no idea if I'll like this change.

Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi:
As unpopular as this film is (except with me, I've always had a soft spot for this one), the changes here are most likely to piss off sensitive Star Wars fans. No word if they removed Boba Fett's Shemp-like screech as he falls to his doom, if they kill more Ewoks, or if they redid the infamous "gout of fire" that erupts when the Super Star Destroyer plunges into Death Star II. Alas, I suppose even modern digital effects can't breath life into the cold, glassy eyes of an Ewok...

(speaking fo Ewoks...everyone knows about the 3 drunk Jawas sitting outside the Cantina in Star Wars. Apparently there's a stoned Ewok in Jedi. Hey, he's taking a hit off a pipe, has glass eyes, and starts be the judge!)

Darth Vader's face - now he's got no eyebrows! I suppose they did this because Anakin's supposed to be badly burned (in a lava pit...after hearing that for all these years, it better damn well be a lava pit!)

Celebrations - at the end of the film, they added the Senate and Jedi Temple into the Coruscant shots. They also added a celebration on Naboo, though hopefully this is a view from far overhead. If given the choice of glassy-eyed Ewoks beating on Stormtrooper helmets or a bunch of Jar-Jars wagging their tongues, I choose the Ewoks!

Anakin's Ghost - in perhaps the most radical change, the "old man" Anakin ghost has now been replaced by a ghostly Hayden Christensen, sporting his new Episode III look. I guess this is how he looks before he falls completely to the dark side...

If you want some links with more information and photos (the second one has lots of photos), go to these links:

The Digital Bits
Movie Web

September 11, 2004

"Full power, Mr. Scott!"

Recently, actor James Doohan (Scotty) was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Last weekend he was the guest of honor at "Beam Me Up Scotty for the Last Time", the final convention where he appeared.

I wasn't aware of this, but James Doohan was always big into the fan conventions, prehaps more than any other Original Series actor. And despite the friction between certain cast memebers of that crew, he's always seemed above it all.

But sadly, Mr. Doohan has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He already has diabetes (as well as something else, though I can't remember what), but it's a real shame to see his mind decay.

I'm a big fan of Howard Stern, earlier this week they were playing some clips where he spoke at his final convention. He sounds like a weak, hesitant old man, nothing like his old self.

Here are quotes from two audio clips they played on the Stern show (incidentally, these were the two that were the most coherent):

Doohan: "It's very nice to look out on 15-20,000 people...and that's an audience."

reporter: "Any last thoughts for the fans?"
Doohan: "Keep on doing it."

I'd like to point out that the reporters seemed to really pester him with memory questions, such as they "Any last thoughts" (above) or the one that really irritated me, something along the lines of "What's your favorite memory of Star Trek?" (Mr. Doohan had no answer)

September 08, 2004

Big Fish

Want to watch a movie that'll make a grown man cry?

Big Fish is the story of a father and his son - the father is a teller of tall tales, the son is tired of hearing them and just wants the truth.

On one level, this is an odd and quirky is a film by Tim Burton, after all. There are so many weird stories that you're never bored.

But on another level, it speaks of the bond and the distance that exists between every father and son.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.