Movie Review – Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity, a “mockumentary” horror film written and directed by Oren Peli, premiered at the Screamfest Film Festival in US on October 14, 2007, and at the Slamdance Film Festival on January 18, 2008. The movie received a limited release in several U.S. cities on October 9, 2009 and had a nationwide release on October 16, 2009.

The ghost story plot of Paranormal Activity is not new to the movie scene. Katie and Micah are a young couple who take the plunge of moving in together. It is not long before they start to experience some paranormal activity in their home. Lights and sinks turn themselves on or off and doors slam with no explanation. Katie then sheds a little light on the situation as she reveals that she has been followed by a ghost ever since she was 8 years old. The couple seek the advice of a psychic and terror begins to unfold.

This set up doesn’t seem any different than a ghost hunting drama that you could flip on at midnight on the sci-fi channel, but the brilliant direction makes it one of the best horror movies of all time by exploiting our inner anxieties about the reality, not the possibility, of haunted spirits. Paranormal Activity triggers fear through the anxiety of committing in a relationship, the panic of a major life change taking a wrong turn, and the familiar yet unexplainable noises or creaks everyone tries to ignore.

As with the popular Blair Witch Project, the selling point is the authentic feel that Paranormal Activity portrays. The spooks and frights aren’t over the top, but they are by no means mundane either. And the ending, holy dammit Christmas, the ending is out of this world. You will go home suspecting every dripping faucet, every cupboard door left open, and every flickering light to be the work of your own personal haunting.

See this movie on the big screen, my little interweb poltergeists. And, if possible, sit between two of the sweetest gay men in the world when you go. I did. And I had the time of my life.

Movie Review – The Squid and the Whale (2005)

I’ve been a Jeff Daniels fan for a long time.

This is yet another great Jeff Daniels movie based on a very strong script by Noah Baumbach who also directed this family drama. Bernie Berkman (Daniels) is an English professor married to another writer Joan (delivered with great texture by Laura Linney). They have two sons Walt (Chicken) (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Pinkie) Berkman (Owen Kline) who go through their own breakdown episodes when they hear that their mom and dad are separating.

The opening tennis scene in which the four are playing a nasty game of doubles (Bernie keeps hitting Joan with stiff volleys) is a good metaphor for where their relationship is headed. On the one side is Bernie and Walt, and on the other, Joan and Frank.

Nobody seems to be blameless but Joan probably contributed more to the breakup than anybody else with her illicit love affair with a neighbor. During their separation she beds her son’s tennis coach (a perfectly cast happy-go-lucky Bill Baldwin). Soon we have a seriously malfunctioning family unit where the little Frank starts drinking beer when he is home alone and displays sex-related anomalies at school and home. Walt, on the other hand, takes a different route to his neurosis and tries plagiarism to score a quick success at his high school’s talent contest.

Bernie himself loses his rudder as well and vacillates between his desire to keep away from Joan, on the one hand, and his jealousy with her literary success and boyfriends on the other. He also starts an affair with a female student of his who rents a room at his new house and flirts with his son as well.

There is no quick and neat solution to this modern drama set in Brooklyn in the 80s. There is an attempt at reconciliation but no one knows how to get the toothpaste back into the tube again. Thus it is very appropriate that the film ends with Walt’s visit to the museum of natural history where there is an immense replica of a whale battling with a giant squid (and thus the film’s title). That looks like a visual representation of Bernie and Joan’s stalemate as well as Walt and Frank’s no holds barred fight in and out of school to keep their sanity and grow as a “normal adult” in a very turbulent world.

The editing is as sharp and fast as the script. I really loved the transitions that kept exposition to a minimum and used the cinema language to great effect. For example, in the scene where Joan is trying to talk and “explain things” to his little son who is in the shower, the appearance of his frail small hand on the shower tile, just a small fragile object coming out of the shower curtain as if it were the antenna of a scared creature testing the world’s atmosphere for presence of poisonous gasses, shows the kind of great talent Noah Baumbach has for telling stories in “motion pictures.”

It’s a good watch if you like modern R-rated dramas. A good 8 out of 10.


How to Remove Unwanted Footage From DVD Movie Without Re-Encoding?

In this guide I will show you how to use Womble EasyDVD to delete unwanted footage from a DVD movie and then burn it back without any video quality loss. Womble EasyDVD is an excellent tool for small DVD edits or to author a new DVD from existing DVD footage, without the need for any re-encoding. So you don’t have to wait to re-encode the whole movie and suffer the heavy quality loss for every little cut that is made.

Womble EasyDVD is not freeware, but don’t worry because you can try it for a month, without any limitations(no watermark, no function disabled or crippled). You can free download it on my site(check the link below the article body). Just install and run it so we can move on with the guide here.

Now transfer your DVD into your hard drive and insert the blank DVD disc into the drive.

Step1. Run Womble EasyDVD. First we need to create a new DVD project. To do this, click “New” button in the Start stage, we will be forwarded to the Source stage.

Step2. The Source stage is where you can add in your input video files, perform some basic editing if needed, and create chapter points.

Here we click the top “Add” button in Movie Manager(the upper left window), check “Open DVD folder” in the pop-up Open window, then browse to DVD file folder and click Open.

Then the DVD reader window pops up and you will see all the titles and chapters. Select the title you want to edit and click OK(Note that if there are more than one main movie titles in DVD reader, you can select the first main movie title, click OK and load the first main movie into EasyDVD as Movie 1, then you can click the top “Add” button again and add the second main movie title into EasyDVD as Movie 2, you can repeat the steps to load more DVD movies.)

Then the DVD movie title will be loaded into Womble EasyDVD keeping the original chapter structure, a movie reel icon named Movie 1 is added in Movie Manager window to represent the movie. You can change the default Movie name(Movie 1) into the real one by selecting “Edit label” in the context menu(or press ‘F2′ on the keyboard).

Now select the movie clip in the Clip Manage, drag the sliderbar and preview movie in the right video preview window.

Drag the slidebar and preview the movie, press the Mark in button (or press ‘I’ on the keyboard) when finding the beginning of the unwanted scenes, and press the Mark out button (or press ‘O’ on the keyboard) when finding the end of unwanted scenes. You can use the mouse scroll wheel or arrow keys to step forward or backward to get the exact frame. Since we have marked the segment to be deleted, now we press the Cut button to remove the marked segment.

Note here you can press “M” on the keyboard to add a chapter point wherever you want.

Step3. Now we go to Menu stage to add menus for the DVD.

To quickly add menu for your movie, you can select a ready menu template from the menu template list. And then you can change the background to your personal photo, add an intro video before the menu shows, reset the menu button style and so on. Here I will just use the first menu template from the list. While Womble EasyDVD will do its best to detect whether your source is PAL or NTSC, you should check to make sure that the right settings are selected here.

Step4. When you’re done with the menu, go to Preview stage. Here you can do a final check on the menu design before outputting a DVD folder.

Step 5. When you are ready to export the DVD project, click Output at the top buttons. Note at the bottom of the window there is a project encode map – the blue area shows the part of the video that won’t need re-encoding (stream copy), the red areas is the parts that need to be re-encoded. We will export the DVD without re-encoding.

Once all that’s done, click on the “Start” button to start the authoring process and sit back and wait.

Step 6. After finishing the export, you can preview the exported DVD folder using a DVD player software such as WinDVD or PowerDVD. If everything worked great, then you can click Burn at the top buttons to enter the final step of your DVD project workflow.

In the Burn stage, change the folder path to where you outputted your DVD files (should be selected automatically for you), and then choose your DVD burner(You may also choose to output to an ISO file for later burning) and then click on the Burn button to start burning your DVD video to a DVD disc.