Chris Chiarella

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 10, 2007 Published: Aug 10, 2007 0 comments
At a time when the quality of feature animation was rapidly diminishing in Hollywood, Don Bluth did more than any filmmaker to keep the art form not just alive but healthy. In 1982, he directed his first full-length movie, The Secret of NIMH (now in a new Family Fun Edition DVD from MGM). That same year, Rick Dyer developed a revolutionary idea for an interactive laserdisc arcade game, which he pitched to Bluth and partner Gary Goldman. They would eventually cocreate the animation for what would become a video-game landmark, Dragon's Lair, the sumptuously realized quest of a hapless knight who—if we're quick with the stick—survives all manner of adversity to rescue a comely maiden from the clutches of a fire-breathing nasty. Before he struck out on his own, Bluth was a Disney veteran with decades of experience. He has given life to everything from the brood-friendly An American Tail, to Fox's ambitious Titan A.E., to the animated sequences in the Olivia Newton-John cult hit Xanadu. Yet a ravenous fan base continues to snap up Dragon's Lair on every new format, most recently the better-than-ever special-edition Blu-ray disc from Digital Leisure. I got to speak with Don Bluth, as well as Paul Gold from Digital Leisure.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Aug 27, 2007 0 comments
Think of it as the Xbox 360.1

In the video-game business, the stakes are high. So, the Big Three have detailed road maps and five-year plans. A new console usually remains unchanged for at least a few Christmases, save for possible software updates and minor technical variations. However, this isn't the case with the Xbox 360. After only a record 17 months in its original incarnation, it has transformed into the Xbox 360 Elite, with two noteworthy hardware upgrades plus a fresh style.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Aug 13, 2007 Published: Jul 13, 2007 0 comments
A working director ever since film school, Randal Kleiser talks to us about his latest, his greatest, and his now famous USC roommate.

After years in television (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble), director Randal Kleiser earned a place in Hollywood history with his joyous adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease, soon followed by his updated ode to young love, The Blue Lagoon. He's kept busy in the ensuing years with an impressive slate of new projects and sequels—although the notorious Grease 2 was not his. We caught up with him as the DVD of his romantic comedy, Love Wrecked, which premiered on the ABC Family channel earlier this year, was being released on DVD from Genius Products/The Weinstein Company.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 30, 2007 0 comments
Own an HDTV? Well, get ready for the age of ATV.

Let's recap: Al Gore created the Internet, and, on the seventh day, he rested. Immediately, entrepreneurs began selling pornography, and the World Wide Web had a purpose. Before long, people started posting videos of their dogs belching the national anthem, and, yet, an entertainment-hungry globe craved more. A bunch of other stuff happened, and now Apple has been selling songs, music videos, TV episodes, and feature-length movies via the iTunes Store,embedded in the free iTunes application for Mac and PC. While digital-rights management protects purchased video and audio (although this may be changing), you can enjoy it at the computer and upload it to various iPod portable devices. Still, a growing contingent yearns to relocate its premium content to the comfort of the living room with due ease and elegance.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 16, 2007 Published: Jun 16, 2007 0 comments
The Oscar-winning filmmaker discusses baseball, unimportant dialogue, Americana, and French fries.

Well known for his comedies and period films, including many set in his native Baltimore (Diner, Tin Men, Avalon, and Liberty Heights), Barry Levinson also gave us such diverse hits as Bugsy, Rain Man, and Good Morning, Vietnam. In 1984, he scored a home run with The Natural, starring Robert Redford, which many people consider to be the best baseball movie of all time. It's now a new special-edition DVD, The Natural Director's Cut, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jul 16, 2007 Published: Jun 16, 2007 0 comments
Think of it as legal steroids for your HTPC.

Plenty of people don't give operating systems a second thought. But they determine what we see and hear and ultimately how we interact with our computer—and everything stored on it. Such software is Microsoft's bread and butter, and they've gone to great lengths to put it at the front of everyone's minds. This is especially true for their radically advanced, new Windows Vista, which is available in several flavors. The guide I downloaded from their Website was more than 300 pages, so there is simply no way to list all the features. Instead, I will quickly point out that the Ultimate version of Windows Vista, which I tested, is the most complete; it combines all the lower-tier functions and adds some unique extras.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 20, 2007 0 comments
How Intel works with Windows Vista to create the "Ultimate" HTPC

Over in the June issue of the Home Theater print magazine, I wrote about the wonders of the Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate, the most highly-featured version of their new operating system, and how its many features make it a great match for the latest HTPCs. Which begs the question, "What are home theater PCs wearing in the Vista age?" And to help answer my query, Intel sent over a test machine custom-built around their Intel Core 2 Duo processor, specifically designed for audio/video applications, running Windows Vista Ultimate.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 19, 2007 0 comments
By and large, dragons have had a tough time of it in Hollywood. Past attempts from Pete’s Dragon, to Dragonslayer, to Dragonheart—heck, even Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story—have failed to set the world on fire. Enter Eragon (based upon the popular book by Christopher Paolini), the latest cinematic tale of winged, flame-belching lizards and the humans who befriend them. There’s nothing really new in this sequel-ready fantasy/adventure: an evil king and his minions; the brave underdog resistance; a young hero who loses everything before coming of age. It all borrows a lot from the original Star Wars trilogy, while looking much like Lord of the Rings.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 18, 2007 Published: May 18, 2007 0 comments
Haven't you been watching Showtime's Masters of Horror anthology series, made by the genre's most notorious creators? Anchor Bay Entertainment is releasing each minimovie as a special-edition DVD, so it will be easy to catch up. Season two included "Pelts," an eerie tale of the world's most acrimonious furrier and some dangerous skins, directed by horror maestro Dario Argento and starring the multitalented Meat Loaf. It's now available on DVD.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 05, 2007 Published: May 06, 2007 0 comments
Teasing the high end while still embracing the previous generation.

I recently read somewhere that DVD's install base had eclipsed that of VHS, the former king of meat-and-potatoes home entertainment. I flashed nostalgically on DVD's initial toehold in rental outlets like Blockbuster and stores such as Suncoast, as well as its relentless growth to the point where VHS was relegated to a single shelf before disappearing altogether. I'm sure that recordable DVD still remains a runner-up to the ubiquitous videocassette—even though blank DVDs cost less than blank tapes and recording decks are at all-time-low prices. Still, for reasons that escape me, VHS just won't lie down, even though the consumer electronics coroner has pronounced it dead.

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