Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Take That Ball to the House! Pound it!

It is the twenty-fifth of December and that means the fat man cometh to bestow gifts onto those deserving. To all of those who are naughty, may the Krampus take mercy upon your eternal soul. I doubt that is the case though since you all are a high class people.

Anyway, to all of you out in the interweb, we here at PORTEmaus wish all of you a Merry Christmas. For our Jewish friends, I hope that a Happy Chanukah was had by all and that it was a glorious Festival of Lights. Not to leave our brothers who celebrate Kwanzaa out, may it be a joyous celebration as well.

It is another year gone and hopefully, the New Year will bring some up to date archives and possibly a redesign. At the very least, I will get cracking on my belated review of Skyfall and the best/ worst of lists. As always, I hope that the past year has went well and the next one is even better... Well, barring the country falling off the fiscal cliff.

Your humble servant,
Manny Funkowitz

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Armageddon watch: Signals of the end times. Part Five.

As one might know, the world is going to end on Friday. After all, if an ancient civilization (even one where the multitude of believers cannot locate the country of origin) or that incredible documentary starring John Cusack says that it is going to happen, then we best pack it in. Yep, game over. It was not a missing zero that did us in, it was the prophecy of Mayans.

Now, we here at PORTEmaus take such things seriously, we broke Harold Camping and once time travel is created, yours truly plans on socking Nostradamus in the kisser. Why do we believe in such eventualities? I am glad that you asked, we are going to the five revelations that have cemented our fate. The first of which was the creation of Windows 8.

Do not get wrong, I (as an Apple user) had high hopes for the once dominant software juggernaut and the latest version of their operating system. It looked like (kinda) snazzy and frankly, looked like a movement away from the same old tired Microsoft product. Sadly, I was wrong after demoing it at work, one fateful day in October. It is a colossal mess, all of the snazzy aesthetics would feel right at home on a tablet, cellular phone or the xBox but do not fit the average user's desktop.

In fact, that was Microsoft's replacement for the start menu... Good job, Ballmer. Plus, you marketed the OS with advertising that is reminiscent of an old man trying desperately to be cool. You guys are trying too hard. What next, are you going to offer candy to the neighborhood children? Hopefully, the Mayan's are right and the world ceases to exist, so no record of this blunder is accessible by alien life forms.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fashionably Delicious: Target and Neiman Marcus bring Xmas and fashion together

Is it really that time again? Is it already here? Cause it seems like the last one was just here. Thanksgiving? No that passed. Christmas? No that's another post altogether. I'm talking of course about the latest capsule collection from Target. After mild success with their "shops" concept, Target is here with another conceptual collaboration. Neiman Marcus has partnered with Target and with the help of 24 designers, they have created the gifting shop to end all gifting shops. First and foremost. I love this idea.

In case you didn't know I LOVE Christmas, but more than that, I love the holiday season. Whatever you celebrate or don't celebrate December feels different than any other month, as people come together with a spirit of giving and hope. It's an incredibly optimistic time and you better believe that I love every minute of it.

Back to the task at hand. This concept is built from the idea that these designers all get to design a few gifts for this collection. With people like Rodarte, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, and Marchesa I'm sure the excitement is at a fever pitch. What I love most about this, is the amount of whimsy an out of the box thinking that went into it. For instance Rodarte? They're offering up wrapping paper, and Gap alum Diane Von Furstenburg? She's giving you the most fabulous yoga mat around.

It's just the kind of magic that I love to see blend into reality. Would you ever have imagined Band of Outsiders making Cookie Cutters? Now there are over 50 pieces to choose and to be fair not all of them are winners. But they offer wide range of choices, and while I'm not excited about it, I'm sure there are plenty of you out there excited about a Tory Burch lunch box. So rather than go through each piece, I'm going to highlight my six favorite pieces.

Before we get to that though, if we had a daughter Jason Wu and Marchesa's pieces for little girls would be at the top of my list. I mean look at them...adorbs

1. Band of Outsiders cookie cutters - tastiest most classic American masculine style with a modern fit cookies are on there way

2. Altuzarra bar ware - just recently we have begun to realize that sometime in the past few years we stopped drinking cocktails out of plastic Iron Man cups from 7-11 and began to care whether we were using a high ball or a tumbler. It makes me sad to, but the new and improved thirty year old me, says this set will make all my friends jealous at the next bourbon party.

3. Jason Wu ornaments - didn't I mention I love Christmas? I am so excited for these to give my tree the whimsical yet subtly detailed elegance of Wu.

4. Rag & Bone shot glasses - I didn't mean for alcohol to take over this list, but refer to my thoughts on Altuzarra. Either way these are badass.

5. Phillip Crangi accent box - another Gap Alum, this box just looks hard, and nothing better to hold trinkets than something hardcore.

6. Rodarte wrapping paper - seriously?! They made wrapping paper? That is just too cool.

There's plenty more to love and I'm sure your favorite pieces won't be as focused on decorations and alcohol as mine. That's what's so great about the holidays, to each his own.

Thank you Target and happy holidays


One last thought - I didn't write about it but Twincess and I Loved the Patch NYC collection, if you were able to make it for Thanksgiving then you know just how obsessed we are.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Halloween Traditions....what better way to celebrate Election Day.

You know 90 minutes on the train everyday really yielded a lot of time to devote to writing. Going to have to figure this new situation out better.

Either way another HALLOWEEN has come and gone. The evolution of Samhain into Halloween is a gloriously pagan tale that has intrigued people for ages. For us, it marks the beginning of the holiday season and of course out yearly Halloween marathon. This year we introduced the youngest of the sisters Funkowitz to the celebration and in doing so we were able to enjoy some great Halloween moments as we exposed her to one of my favorite yearly traditions.

This year was all about a broad spectrum. Rather than focus on pure frights, I wanted to delve into the diversity that "horror" has to offer as well get through some classics of the genre. Easily one of the most successful we've had. Here's our list with some quick commentary. I hope you all had a great Halloween.

Trick R' Treat - Michael Dougherty
Great way to start off the month with this underrated celebration of Halloween. Filled with great character actors and plenty of fun, this is a great way to introduce the spirit of Halloween.

2. The Beyond - Lucio Fulci
On the other side of the spectrum we have Italian horror maestro Fulci, at his grotesque best giving us a tale of hell on earth. Zombies, and demons, and spiders and ghosts abound in this "collection of images" as Fulci calls it. The loose plot and Italian style dubbing definitely didn't resonate with the uninitiated sisters Funkowitz. But the brilliance of imagery is undeniable.

3. Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein - Charles Barton
An absolute classic and completely timeless. My favorite collection of monsters on film. If you haven't seen this Universal released a great Blu Ray recently, I strongly suggest you pick it up.

4. Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard
Celebration and condemnation of horror films and how formulaic they have become. Whedon and Goddard have crafted a supremely entertaining love letter that has its fair share of gore and more than enough monsters for any movie goer.

5. Ed Wood - Tim Burton
Going behind the scenes with Burton's fairy tale telling of the b movie master Ed Wood. This rather optimistic take on the infamous director gives us a look at the outcasts and misfits behind the scenes of the schlocky monster films of yesterday. Like I said trying to hit all aspects of the horror industry.

6. Cabin Fever - Eli Roth
Nothing like a good teens in the woods story to set the frame of a great horror film. Eli Roth burst onto the scene with this nostalgic tale, which reinterpreted the slasher film as a flesh eating virus. Love the references in this movie, underrated in my opinion.

7. Hostel II - Eli Roth
Not sure how we ended up watching so much Eli Roth, but I like the guy and think he has a great knowledge of the genre. He definitely has no qualms about going for the jugular. This sequel to his torture porn original expands on the world glimpsed at in the first one. Rather than being just a retread of the first film he gives us an idea of the expansive reach this company has. I actually prefer the original, but Roth gets a lot of shit for his torture porn, when he's actually doing it well.

8. V/H/S - Multiple directors
The new anthology film from quite a few up and coming horror directors. This is extremely low budget and really takes a look at the multiple types of found footage films there could be. As to be expected the film is uneven. Ti West with his story of a struggling relationship on the road is a standout entry that goes to some pretty dark places. Joe Swanberg also turns in a creepy ghost story told over Skype, with a turn that is surprising rather than insulting. Radio Collective however turns in the final film which is easily the most entertaining and most fun to watch, what they were able to accomplish is impressive and the story loves up to the technical prowess. The framing story as well as the first film and the middle film leave much to be desired.

9. The Intruders - Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Really excited to see where this guys career takes him. Unfortunately this film is as forgettable as they come. A kind of ok ghost story with some ok visuals, that just loses whatever potential it had with a lackluster and honestly confusing ending...so it was all in their head? Does that mean the psychiatrist's intervention was right?

10. Death Proof - Quentin Tarantino
Quentin's entry into the grind house experiment plays like a fetish film for all of his regular obsessions. But while Kill Bill was post modern to an extreme here there is an overwhelming sense of fun throughout. If you never thought Quentin was actually obsessed with legs and feet, well this is the film to turn you around.

11. The American Scream - Michael Stephenson
The follow up documentary from the director of Best Worst Movie. This film takes a sympathetic look at those who call themselves "home haunters". The people that take decorating their house for Halloween to the next level. What Stephenson does so well, as in his last film, is show us these eccentrics, these weirdos, but most of all he shows us the passion they all have for creating a memory for one night. Really excited to have this one in the rotation, like I said trying to run the gamut of what Halloween had to offer, this at the end definitely was a nice way to being winding down.

12. The Shining - Stanley Kubrick
Wanted to finish with an absolute classic of the horror genre, it came down to this or Rosemary's Baby. Both would've been great choices, but I went here as Kubrick's tale of a descent into madness is so downright creepy and uncomfortable that its hard to not let the film seep into your soul. Jack Nicholson gives high strung and crazy better than anyone and the result is one of the best movies of all time and easily top five horror films of all time.

Hope you had a great Halloween, now it's time to vote.


One last thought - next year I HAVE to work in Suspiria.

I have cupboards with cans of food, filtered water and I am not coming out until this all over."

It is that time again. Who would have thought that a quadrennial cycle would pass by so quickly. Now, we are faced with a difficult choice. Not so much for me, I already a while ago but I am a political "brown nose."

In spite of my enthusiasm for early voting, I will not be said to see this election cycle draw to a close. It has without a doubt highlighted everything that is worrisome about American politics. It has made even though most politically stalwart amongst us into an apathetic shell of the man that we all know and love.

Do not let me rain on the most holy of our democratic holidays. Go out there and exercise the hell out of your civic duties! Get that "voting sticker" and wear it proudly on your chest. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to sequester myself to my cave located somewhere in Appalachia.

I will pop in throughout the day as weather and Internet connections permit.

Your humble servant,

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Flick Bits: Marvel Phase 2 UPDATE

Hey MAUSketeers just wanted to bring you a quick update on some great happenings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically with their "Phase 2". I have some monster posts brewing but some of this news is just too exciting to pass up.

Some of this is a little old but I thought I'd chime in with some thoughts.

James Gunn Confirmed for Guardians
Wow. Marvel is not afraid to think outside the box and boy are they getting crazy with this choice. Gunn is a crazy director, who's foray into the super hero genre yielded a genuinely unique and dark entry in the genre. You can read my thoughts on Super here. Not my first choice for a sci fi epic, but if anyone can bring a rough around the edges leader and a badass raccoon with a talking tree to life it's Gunn. Extremely excited about this.

Sharon Carter in Cap 2? Carol Danvers in Avengers 2
Rumors are up and swirling about the lead female characters in some of these new Marvel films. We all know Portman is back for Thor 2, but with Cap jumping to the modern day it seems destined for Sharon Carter to be introduced. As for Carol Danvers? She's an integral part to the Avengers as of late, not to mention more powerful than most of the men on the team. They say Emily Blunt is up for the role, I definitely think she can bring enough badass to the role to make it work, but also the levity needed. Looking forward to see these play out. Maybe if they wait like 8 years Chloe Grace Moretz can get the role.

Ant-Man CONFIRMED for late 2015
Edgar Wrights passion project finally gets the go ahead. After years of speculation and campaigning it seems that we will finally see an Antman film after Avengers 2. I suppose that puts this in "phase 3" territory, either way I can't wait. Not the hugest Ant-man fan, but with Gunn on Guardians and Wright on Ant-Man we are in for some(hopefully) incredibly unique super hero films. And ...maybe Ant-man will lay the ground work for Ultron in Avengers 3.


One last thought- Coulson LIVES! At least in TV form as it seems Coulson will be an integral part of the SHIELD TV series

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

God as a Zilla... King as a Kong.

It has been awhile since the last time I addressed you all in this manner and I hope that I have not been forgotten. I have taken the opportunity to escape from my doctoral shackles to take some time to bring you up to speed with what is happening in the hallowed halls of the Maus.

Foremost, Bence has relocated to a place where it gets so hot that rain evaporates before it hits the ground. A location where winter is merely a slight breeze on an ordinary 70 degree day in December. Anyway, welcome to Arizona, one of the oddest states in the union. Take that daylight savings! You have no place here.

With all of us here in one state, hopefully it will mean that we will create more content for all of the PORTEmaus loyalists out there. All three of you. Hopefully, this means more PORTEcasts that will be recorded to only sit edited on my laptop. Well, I know what I will be doing this evening...

Finally, what letter from the editor is not complete without a progress report. While such a number might not seem like a big deal to most, our proverbial little engine that could has hit 50,000 hits! Not bad for web site that used to only be viewed by the people who wrote them (we are not narcissists, I swear). Anyway, it is always great to know that things are moving forward and not simply standing still.

Your humble narrator,
Manny Funkowitz

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Movie Preview

In the middle of a cross country move...sorry for the delay on this as well as my lack of presence here. I'll be back up in full form soon. Miss you all.

Wow that went by fast. I really can't believe Summer is over and the Fall movie season is about to begin. I missed out on a lot of great stuff this Summer which hopefully I'll be able to catch up on. Life is definitely never dull in the house of Bence. Without further ado I bring you my Fall Movie Preview Spectacular. For the sake of this article Fall is defined as September through November.

10. The Man With The Iron Fists - Rza
This could be bottled insanity, or it could be shit. I'm hoping it's fun.

9. Solomon Kane - Michael Basset
This was actually made a long time ago, but finally got distribution here in the states. If you don't know who Basset is, check out some of his earlier work. The guy can build atmosphere and is so good at drawing you into the story with interesting characters. Here we have an adaptation of Solomon Kane and his fight against evil. This poses to be a much different take on the hero genre.

8. Wreck-it Ralph - Rich Moore
The ultimate nerdgasm. Video game characters live inside the machines. They have self help groups and portals. RC and I will be there opening night.

7. Argo - Ben Affleck
There is a continuous growth in his work as a director. While neither film has completely blown me away, both have intrigued me and had a lot to like. This looks to be the film that catapults him into a strong director. The story is amazing and the feel that the trailers give off makes me think Affleck nails this one. Here's hoping.

6. Seven Psychopaths - Martin McDonagh
The McDonagh brothers are a sardonically funny bunch. Can't wait to see this film, In Bruges was brilliant dark comedy that showed the talent we saw in Farrell's early career. Hoping he pulls another amazing performance and delivers the same laugh out loud incredibly dark situations we had in the first film.

5. Lincoln - Steven Spielberg
Maybe the most excited I've been for a Spielberg film in a long while. And no matter what the man has earned a place here for the rest of his career. Us here at the Maus were said to see Neeson leave this project, but damn if Daniel Day Lewis doesn't look amazing as Lincoln.

4. Skyfall - Sam Mendes
Fuck you, I liked Quantum of Solace. Besides that, Craig is just beyond cool as Bond and Mendes is an amazing director. I love Jarhead and Manny would get upset if I didn't mention how great Road to Perdition was.

3. Cloud Atlas - Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer
I'm much more excited about Tykwer's involvement than the Wachowskis. Either way both directors have bold visual eyes and the trailers give us a sense of something completely epic. I didn't hate Speed Racer, but I definitely didn't love it. And for me The Matrix does not age well. I love Perfume and The Princess and the Warrior. Hoping these three directors came together to create something amazing

2. Looper - Rian Johnson
If it weren't for The Master this would own the Fall for me. Time Travel? Rian Johnson's amazing dialogue and Levitt? I'm there.

1. The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson
Hey Nolan, here's your competition.


This was just announced a few weeks ago that it would actually get released this year. Alright, I'm intrigued ...,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blu Review: Indiana Jones the Complete Adventures

Who didn't grow up with Indiana Jones? If you didn't, please leave this site, go to your nearest store, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and pick up this set, go home, watch, and then go tell your doctor how you've found a brand new method for fighting erectile dysfunction. Anyhow, one of the most requested blu-ray releases is upon us, so, let's dig in...

You must choose...but choose wisely

Personal Bias/QuasiFilm Review: I think the first Indiana Jones film I saw was Last Crusade, and like the other two original films, I saw them first on VHS. I can't even begin to fathom to the times I saw these films on VHS. I remember getting Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS and being shocked to find it was the first made film, as the whole prequel inside of a sequel opening of Last Crusade felt like the beginning of a film franchise, not a trilogy capper. Top it off, when finding out that date wise, Temple of Doom actually takes place before either of them, then your childhood head really starts to spin. Nonetheless picking a favorite out of these films is like picking which kid you like the best. Even Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls has it's positives. I absolutely hated that film up on first viewing, but on subsequent watches I found myself liking all but two major components: the last ac: the whole pyramid sucked into the Earth bit right out of The Mummy Returns, the ET aliens and the wedding, that whole last bit just doesn't do it for me. The other? The Cinematography. Janusz Kaminski tried, in camera movement and aesthetic, to copy the look and feel of the original trilogy shot by Douglas Slocombe. Unfortunately, in lighting and film timing/color processing he did not. It is far too clean and shiny, too much film glow, too many times a shot that was shot on location or on set looks as if it's a glossy green screen shot. All in all though, these four films as a whole represent about the most fun you can have going to the movies. Childhood wise, from watching Temple of Doom countless times with my Grandfather after my Mom told me that movie was too violent for me, to watching Last Crusade countless times with my father, I just can't think of better memories. I've gotten to spread the love of these films too, to teenage friends who hadn't seen them, to my now-wife, her younger brothers - Indiana Jones is the gift that keeps on giving.

This guys opinion:
Raiders of the Lost Ark - 5/5; Temple of Doom - 4/5; Last Crusade - 5/5; Crystal Skulls - 3.5/5

Hey look Shorty, I'm a Pirate now!

Aesthetically Speaking: Much like Star Wars Saga before it, Indiana Jones comes in a book style packaging, though the discs are housed more like the Stanley Kubrick blu-book set. This is a plus in that it houses the discs better and more securely, and allows room for more artwork. Speaking of, I like the artwork on and in this set much better, again, than the Star Wars set. The cover that the book slips into has a nice gloss to it's front and back, and the titles have a nice slight emboss to them. The motion menus recall the old DVD ones, though crisper and with updated graphics. Finally, I wish there was a little insert booklet with this set, but that is my one, very minor, quibble.

Aesthetics & Package: 5/5

Harrison Ford threatens to drop the bridge scenes dailies if Spielberg doesn't start casting him in movies besides Indiana Jones

Visually Speaking: When you have four films that take place over nearly three decades of time, and budgets that grew with each subsequent release, you might be worried that you'll have quite a dip in one direction or another when it comes to the visual transfers of the films. Thankfully, that's not really the case. All three original films share a very similar color grade, that pushes into the dusty reds more than most films. Raiders IS in fact the worst looking overall of the bunch, it's actually right on par with Temple but the opening scene has a bit of unevenness, in the blacks, in the gamma and whites, but with a scene that complicated lighting (and age) wise, I forgive it. The rest of the film looks amazingly good, and the 4K restoration looks to be top notch. All three original films have a slight touch of DNR to give a more natural grain look, but there is still plenty of grain and detail, so don't think this is a Patton type of DNR mess. This is on par with how Criterion uses the proper amount of filtering. Last Crusade looks the best of the original three films, it looks amazingly good in fact and should shock everyone. The fourth film of course being only four years old, looks solid despite the problems I have with it's color grade. All four have high nitrate AVC codecs that should please any numb crunchers and though there are a few spots of softness in the image across the original three films, I have to say, I didn't expect them to come out this well. For those like me, who grew up in chopped off full-screen VHS copies of these films, it's a revelation.

Visually Overall:
Raiders of the Lost Ark - 4/5; Temple of Doom - 4.5/5; Last Crusade - 5/5; Crystal Skulls - 4.5/5

Harrison - "But the set for Indy 5 is that way?"
Sean - "Yes, but the Bond 50 reunion is that way..."

Speaking of Sound: As I've gotten more home theater equipment over the years, and mixing 5.1 on my own time for my own projects, I've come to realize just how much sound can add to a film presentation. Blu-Ray in fact, for all it's leaps and bounds ahead of DVD in the visual department, sometimes what gets lost in the shuffle is just how much an improvement in audio it also is. These surround sound mixes of these older films rock, my lone complain is they're a bit loud or boisterous at times. They are massively awesome uncompressed tracks, and if you don't have a surround sound set up and you're just watching on the TV itself, go buy one. Music is clear, the sound effects have such great dynamic range and depth, the dialogue is crisp. It makes these films all the more enjoyable.

Audio Overall:
Raiders of the Lost Ark - 4.5/5; Temple of Doom - 4.5/5; Last Crusade - 4.5/5; Crystal Skulls - 5/5

This actor came to the set thinking he was auditioning for the part of Doc Brown in Back to the Future

A/V Bitrates: For you number crunchers out there, worried that excellent transfers in audio or video might be hindered by poor encodes, don't fret. The AVC MPEG-4 video encodes are consistently in the 30's, the uncompressed audio tracks waver in the 4.5MBps range, you just can't complain. The films are presented in their original 2.35:1 aspect ratios, so you'll get the black bars on top and bottom, while also getting those sweet anamorphic lens flares. 

Bonus Goodies: The best part of Lucasfilm releases bonus feature wise, is also the worst. They always release new material for each set, so while that means you know it's gonna be new bonus stuff and not just same old re-hash time and time again, it also means if you're anal about this stuff or a super fan, you gotta hold on to those old releases. 

Trailers on all four Films
On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark
From Adventure to Legend
Making of on all Four Films
Behind the Scenes with Stunts, Sound, Music, VFX, Creepy Crawlies, Friends & Enemies & More

In almost every section I listed there, there is multiple choices of featurettes and such. This 5th disc is pretty packed with stuff, and from archival on-set footage from Raiders on to new interviews and more, you should come away satisfied. 

Goodies Overall: 4.5/5

More Blu-Ray Screen Grabs:
Taken from Sony BD Player into Avid Media Composer at 1080P
Blogger Re-Sizes images to well below 1920x1080
All images under fair use for Discussion, Critique and Review