David Vaughn

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 26, 2011 0 comments
Bored with his perennial role as Halloween Town's frightening Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington discovers the cheerful village of Christmas Town. Determined to shake things up in Halloween Town, he schemes to kidnap Santa Clause and takes over the job of delivering gifts to the children himself. When his plan goes awry, Jack attempts to restore Santa to his rightful place, but he must first rescue him from the evil clutches of Oogie Boogie.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is an unusual film that improves with multiple viewings. Burton cleverly mixes Halloween and Christmas with fabulous set designs and stop-motion photography, creating a whimsical world in which to tell his story. The film was rereleased to theaters in 2008 with a 3D conversion utilizing the talents of Don Hahn and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). As explained on Mouseclubhouse.com, they used the original film for the left eye and they projected it onto a featureless piece of geometry that looks like a coffee cup. Then the camera was moved to the right three inches and re-photographed. Any gaps are then filled in via Photoshop and the resulting image is outstanding. I loved the original 2D release of the film for its fine visuals and enveloping soundtrack, but this 3D version takes it to a whole new level.

David Vaughn Posted: Aug 25, 2011 4 comments
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Price: $350 At A Glance: Fast loading of Blu-ray Discs • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Vudu HDX streaming • Spiffy new Netflix interface

History has a way of repeating itself, and we’re beginning to see similarities between Blu-ray and DVD. While Blu-ray’s penetration rate will probably never equal DVD’s, the prices of hardware and software are now dropping to levels that don’t turn off the average consumer. But is this necessarily a good thing? With DVD, you bought the player, and it pretty much worked until it dropped. With a Blu-ray player, you need to update the firmware the moment you unbox it, and this event repeats itself quarterly to accommodate quirky BD+ copy protection on new disc releases. Then there are the firmware updates gone awry—the occasional “fix” that introduces more problems than it solves. When that happens, a company’s ability to respond to trouble becomes critical. But if the manufacturers don’t make enough money selling players, they can’t easily justify the timely updates and prompt service their customers deserve. While I love a great bargain as much as the next guy, it’s also important to consider the manufacturer’s record of after-purchase support.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 25, 2011 0 comments
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1949, John Belushi was the offspring of Albanian immigrants. Both he and his younger brother Jim would find success in Hollywood, but on March 5, 1982, John was found dead in his hotel room in West Hollywood from a drug overdose.

Although his career was short-lived, he had a great foundation to become a comedic force in Hollywood. At the age of 22, Belushi hooked up with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago and eventually found his way to New York as a cast member in the off-Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. The show was originally slated to run six weeks, but it entertained packed houses for almost ten months. From there, the comedian worked as a writer for two years for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. His big break came in 1975 when he joined the original cast of Saturday Night Live, where he showcased the humor he’d honed while he was with Second City.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 24, 2011 0 comments
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is trying to leave his poker playing days behind him while he attempts to earn his law degree and prove to his girlfriend that he can hold a "real job." Bu when his best friend, "Worm" Murphy (Edward Norton), is released from prison, he coaxes Mike back to the tables. "Worm" gets himself into serious trouble with a local mobster/poker legend, Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), and Mike's rear-end ends up on the hook since he mistakenly vouched for his friend and he needs to come up with a boatload of cash in short order. Look out poker world, here he comes.

For the record, I love playing poker—specifically Texas Hold'em—so it's only natural that this is one of my favorite movies. While I limit my gaming to tournaments and avoid cash games like the plague, I've witness many people who constantly chase the big score and get in way over their head and lose their entire bankroll. One of the biggest thrills of my life was winning a seat to the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event, but sadly my dream of winning the title went down in flames when my set of queens was beat when an ace hit on the river giving my competitor a higher set—that's poker!

David Vaughn Posted: Aug 17, 2011 4 comments

Performance
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Price: $999 At A Glance: Flawless playback of Blu-ray 2D and 3D discs • Audiophile analog performance for less than $1k • Outstanding build quality and first-class customer service

Oppo Blu-ray players have been a fixture in Home Theater's Top Picks section since the introduction of the BDP-83 in 2009. Earlier this year, we added its successor, the BDP-93, to the list due to its flawless playback of Blu-ray Discs, speed of operation, 3D capability, and streaming services from Netflix and Vudu. But good companies don't rest on their laurels, and Oppo has released an audiophile version of the player, the BDP-95, featuring the same reference-quality digital video processing with a beefed-up analog section for those who love their two-channel audio or who haven't upgraded to an HDMI-based AVR or surround processor and want the best audio possible for 7.1-channel soundtracks. Since the BDP-95 is identical to the BDP-93 in terms of video and digital audio, I'll concentrate on the upgraded analog audio here; for more on the rest of the player, see the review of the BDP-93.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 14, 2011 0 comments
Nine-year-old Milo (motion-capture performer Seth Green and voice actor Seth Dusky) stows away on a Mars-bound alien spaceship as it races away with his mom (Joan Cusack), who has been abducted so the Martians can steal her mom-ness in order to raise their young. Once he arrives on the Red Planet, he's befriended by Gribbler (Dan Fogler), an immature young adult whose mother was also stolen by the Martians when he was a boy. It's a race against time as Milo struggles to save his mother from imminent doom at the hands of the aliens.

This is a decent family film that starts off pretty slow but picks up steam in the second act as you get to know the main characters. The motion-capture techniques developed by producer Robert Zemeckis in The Polar Express have improved over the years, especially with adult faces, but the children come across a little creepy. Despite the shortcomings in the story, both the 3D and 2D presentations are outstanding, and the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack is definitely demo-worthy.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 11, 2011 1 comments
The Dude (Jeff Bridges) gets involved in a case of mistaken identity when some thugs show up at his place to collect a debt owed by another man who shares his last name—Lebowski. To add insult to injury, the goons pee on his favorite rug and he seeks out compensation from the other Lebowski, a well-healed wheelchair-bound millionaire who's willing to help The Due as long as he does one little favor.

The Coen Brother's have a unique perspective on the world and they definitely don't "go with the flow." While I don't consider this to be one of their best films, it does contain their most interesting character—The Dude. At the time of its release in 1998, it wasn't as critically acclaimed as Fargo or O Brother, Where Art Thou? but over the years it has obtained cult-like status with its fans and Bridge's portrayal of the iconic character set his career on an upward path.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

Performance
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Value
Price: $599 At A Glance: THX Select2 Plus certified • Audyssey and THX loudness modes • iDevice Onkyo Remote app

With gas approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country, most consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending in order to make ends meet. If you have to drive an SUV (like I do), then a trip to the local gas station could set you back $100 to fill the tank. In times like these, your quest to find the greatest bang for your buck might even extend all the way to your equipment rack. If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you won’t have to look far thanks to Onkyo. What if I told you you could have seven channels of amplification, first-rate video processing, and many of the features found on the flagship products for less than $600? If I’ve piqued your interest, then keep on reading, because the TX-NR609 is one of the best values that’s come down the pike in a long time.

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David Vaughn Posted: Jul 25, 2011 0 comments
When soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of an experimental government program called the "Source Code" that enables him to assume another man's identify in the last eight minutes of his life. Armed with the task of identifying the bomber of a Chicago-bound commuter train, Colter must re-live the incident over and over until he can solve the mystery and prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.

I was eagerly looking forward to giving this one a spin, and it more than met my expectations. It's nonstop action from start to finish, and Gyllenhaal has great screen presence as the troubled hero. Not only was I wildly entertained, but the DTS-HD MA audio track is outstanding and worth the price of admission all by itself. But don't get your hopes too high for the video encode, which isn't anything to write home about.

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David Vaughn Posted: Jul 24, 2011 0 comments

South central Los Angeles wasn't an ideal neighborhood to come of age in the early 1990s given the rampant drug problems and gang violence. John Singleton's debut as a director captures the scene perfectly, following the lives of Doughboy (Ice Cube), Chris (Redge Green), Ricky (Morris Chestnut), and Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) as they try and navigate the mean streets of the 'hood.

Even 20 years after its powerful debut, Boyz n The Hood is one of the most realistic depictions of urban life in America. It portrays the hazards that inner-city youth constantly battle—poverty, rampant drug and alcohol use, broken families, and gang violence. Each of the main characters face their own personal struggles, and Lawrence Fishburne delivers a career-defining performance as Furious, Tre's wise father who dishes out advice on life and survival.

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