Chris Chiarella

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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.

Chris Chiarella Posted: Jun 05, 2007 Published: May 06, 2007 0 comments
What's the key to portable video? Lots of slots.

The problem with a moniker like Picture Porter Elite, classy sounding or not, is that it conjures up notions of a digital bucket of sorts, compatible primarily with still photos. That is far from true for this well-rounded portable media player. Its roots are in the realm of the memory-card reader, which began its life as a PC accessory and later became a freestanding device with its own onboard data storage. You could insert cards while out in the field and safely archive their contents onto the unit's built-in hard drive, thereby freeing up the precious removable media real estate so you could snap new pictures and/or lens new video. A small LCD let you interface with your multimedia content. To expedite the transfers, it displayed file names, file types, and so on. The Piture Porter Elite uses a bigger color screen and has the necessary decoding so you can view your images and movies. Throw in music playback just because everyone everywhere is listening to MP3s, and you begin to formulate a sense of what this device can do. It also connects to a video source and records content to play back on the go later. Or you can park the Picture Porter Elite next to an audio/video system, patch it in with the included cables, and view all of the content on your TV. You can zoom, pan, and rotate your photos or easily print them via a simple USB connection to a PictBridge-compliant printer. The FM radio has a bold, clever graphic user interface and is a nice bonus. (The included headphones serve double duty as an antenna.) There's even a voice recorder with an embedded microphone and a pre-loaded game: It's Tetris, even though they call it Matrix.

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Chris Chiarella Posted: May 21, 2007 Published: Apr 21, 2007 0 comments
Hit maker Ivan Reitman has left his mark as the director and/or producer on some of the biggest, funniest comedies ever. Appreciative of his collaborators, keenly aware of his own canon, and showing a remarkable savvy for the home-video landscape, Reitman reflects upon almost three decades of favorites on the occasion of his latest release, Fox's My Super Ex-Girlfriend, starring Uma Thurman.
Chris Chiarella Posted: May 21, 2007 Published: Apr 21, 2007 0 comments
Putting the fun back into next-generation consoles.

Nintendo's follow-up to their popular GameCube—number three in the Big Three consoles of the previous generation—is the Wii (pronounced "we"), which represents a very different approach from SCEA's and Microsoft's next-gen gaming offerings. The humble Wii de-emphasizes the absolute latest and greatest in graphics and game audio, supporting a maximum video resolution of only 480p, in EDTV mode. Instead, it offers innovation in game design and control. And you can buy two of these Wii consoles for the price of the stripped-down PlayStation 3 model.

Chris Chiarella Posted: May 18, 2007 0 comments
The Spider-Man film franchise has millions of satisfied fans, which is quite an accomplishment by the filmmakers, considering the persnickety nature of comic-book devotees and the quality of most sequels. These fans must be confused by the apparent eagerness to modify one of the great superhero movies of all time, but they need not fret. Sony Pictures’ re-edited Spider-Man 2.1 preserves everything we enjoyed theatrically and on DVD in 2004, plus it offers about eight more minutes of footage, every second of it enjoyable in its own right.

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