I was a senior in high school when Top Gun came out in 1986. After that, every guy in my class, including myself, wanted to be Tom Cruise. He just epitomized coolness in a way that transcended even his iconic turn in Risky Business. Our Navy recruitment officer was extremely happy that year because enlistment was at an all-time high. No, they didn’t ensnare me, thankfully. My admiration for Mr. Cruise and this film went only as far as the box office and not swabbing decks on some aircraft carrier. But I remember we drove an extra 20 miles out of our way to see Top Gun at a brand-new theater that was the first in the state equipped for THX sound. And it made all the difference.
As Andy prepares to leave for college, his mother asks what he wants to do with his old toys. When they end up at a day-care center, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) must help the old gang escape from the toddlers' torture chamber and find their way back to Andy's room before he departs.
How do you top one of the greatest sequels ever made? Screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) somehow captures lightning in a bottle for the third time by taking our heroes and mixing them up with a new cast of characters that include Ken (Michael Keaton), a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), and the evil pink teddy bear Lotso (Ned Beaty), who sentences the new toys to the toddlers' room.
Every Pixar release has been a demo showpiece, and this one is no exception. The 1080p video encode is perfect, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack features reference-quality dynamics, frequency response, and surround envelopment.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/ts1.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>The wizards at Pixar discovered that when left alone toys will come to life. In Andy's room his favorite toy is Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), an old-fashioned cowboy doll whose status is usurped when Andy is given the latest and greatest space toy, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen). With the social dynamics thrown into chaos, Woody and Buzz end up in the clutches of any toys worst nightmare—Sid, the toy-torturing boy next door.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/trafficbd.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>Penned by Stephan Gaghan, <i>Traffic</i> tackles the war on drugs from three different angles. In Washington, D.C. newly appointed drug czar, Judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), spends all of his time focusing on the drug war and doesn’t realize his own daughter is a prolific user. Javier Rodriguez (Benito Del Toro), a Tijuana police officer, fights his own battle against the drug trade but corruption in his department may be his biggest obstacle. Then there's Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose life is turned upside down when her husband is accused of being the head of a drug cartel while two DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) attempt to turn one of one of his employees against him.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/transformers.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>Two competing factions from Cybertron—the Autobots and Decepticons—arrive on Earth seeking the Allspark, a device with enough power to save their planet. A human teenager (Shia LaBeouf) holds the key to where the Allspark is hidden, and unbeknownst to him, his recently purchased Camaro is an Autobot serving as his protector from the evil Decepticons until help can arrive.
In 1959, a UFO crash-landed on the moon and it was the true catalyst for space race between the US and Russia as they hurried to investigate the incident. In present day, the Autobots become aware of the crash and race to the moon to do their own investigation. Onboard the spacecraft they discover a deactivated Sentinel Prime who can only be reactivated by Optimus Prime, who is curious what happened so many years ago.
I wasn't a big fan of the original Transformers movie and skipped the critically panned sequel, but had heard good things about this one and was willing to give it a chance. The premise actually had some promise, but everything I disliked about the first movie is repeated hereshallow plot, poor acting, senseless characters, and a never-ending third act that repeats many of the action scenes witnessed in the first two acts. Granted, Michael Bay doesn't make these films to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, but he'll certainly never win a Best Editor award because the bloated run time clocks in at 154 fatiguing minutes.
First with the just-released Diamond Edition of its 1942 classic, Bambi, and now with Tron: Legacy, Disney is including a Blu-ray bonus called Disney Second Screen. After downloading an app to your iPad or laptop computer, you enable the program in the disc's menu. The iPad/laptop now plays special features to coincide with your viewing of the Blu-ray on TV.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/tropicthunder.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>On the set of a Vietnam War movie, action-superstar Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Academy Award-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), and fart-king Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) find themselves in a pickle when the hare-brained scheme of misguided director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) goes awry. Along with two other actors, they are thrust into real-life danger and must band together to survive.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/trueblood.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>I didn't connect with this HBO original series based on the books by Charlaine Harris, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is to die for. The score features a full-bodied sound, the dynamic range is impressive, and the creative sound design utilizes every speaker in the room. Quiet passages reveal crickets chirping, and dialog is never strained. The video is solid, but I'm focusing on the audio for this Ultimate Demo.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/trueblood.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) is a sweet and innocent waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana, who has the ability to read minds. When we first meet her, she has difficulty tuning out her various customers and their crude thoughts, but when Bill Compton enters the restaurant one night, she's instantly attracted to him for one reason—she can't hear his thoughts because he's a vampire, and for once in her life, she can get through a date without knowing how badly the guy wants to sleep with her.
<IMG SRC="/images/archivesart/trueblood2.jpg" WIDTH=200 BORDER=0 ALIGN=RIGHT>For its sophomore season, <i>True Blood</i> returns to Bon Temps and its dark secrets. Sookie (Anna Paquin) and Bill (Stephan Moyer) get closer, although as their relationship grows so does the danger to their lives. Tara (Rutina Wesley) falls in love, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) hooks up with the Fellowship of the Sun, and Maryann (Michelle Forbes) has a very persuasive power.
Season three finds Bill (Stephan Moyer) kidnapped and Sookie Anna Paquin) heading to Mississippi to find him. There she becomes entangled in a world ruled by a powerful Vampire King and the werewolves who do his bidding. Meanwhile, back in Bon Temps, new threats emerge that make previous problems seem tame by comparison.
Am I the only guy that's sick of vampires? I've never been a huge fan of this series but have stuck with it for the sake of our readers, but I'm not sure I can handle another season of it. Sure, through its 12 episodes there is the occasional winner, but overall it's an up-and-down affair and isn't one of HBO's greatest hits.
Matty Ross (Kim Darby) is the apple of her father's eye and when he's murdered by Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) she wants justice. Headstrong to the nth-degree, the teenager hires U.S. Marshall "Rooster" Cogburn (John Wayne) and insists she's part of the posse. Cogburn grudgingly approves but Matty isn't happy when he allows an inexperienced Texas Ranger (Glan Cambell) into the group who's in search of the same man for a murder in Texas.
John Wayne was one of Hollywood's most beloved stars and appeared in over 150 films between 1926 and 1976 and won his only Academy award for his portrayal of the cantankerous "Rooster." While his performance is quite good, I think he was better in The Searchers and Sands of Iwo Jima, but I'm glad he won it. The film is very entertaining and the chemistry between Wayne and Darby is outstanding and it was fun to see Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall as the bad guys.