Archive for July, 2011

The Wonderful Animated World Of Disney Movies

Even though Walt Disney has produced myriad movies, it is more popular for its animated ones. After starting the animated journey with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ in the winter of 1937, Disney movies have not looked back. One can obtain a list of more than 150 animated movies that have been produced and distributed to add to the joy of children across the world.

After a certain age, kids grow out of Sesame Street, Tellytubbies and BooBaahs. At this time the next level of entertainment that attracts them generally are the Walt Disney movies that appeal to a slightly older age group. The great thing about these movies, which has probably led to the huge popularity of the animated movies, is the fact that they appeal to adults and children alike. A mother does not mind sitting through a Disney movie with her child but an episode of Tellytubbies can be wearisome.

To the uninitiated, it may be a surprise that each Disney movie comes accompanied with a movie book. These books are published under the ‘Mouse Works’ banner and contain a simple version of the story. This can help in encouraging children to not only see the movie but also to read books, which hopefully will extend to other forms of reading at some time.

Though the company is proud of all its movie productions, some of them have attained the stature of ‘classics’ based on their popularity. Abound with simple, yet meaningful songs these movies can expose the child to emotions, morals and ways of the world while telling a story. Toddlers seem to enjoy the light evilness of some of the characters like the witch in Snow White and Cruella De Vil in the 101 Dalmatians. Alternately, some of the most endearing characters that Walt Disney movies have created are Tramp in The Lady and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. But most of the leading characters in inspire awe and amazement aided by the color, grandeur and dazzle.

Some of the Walt Disney films that have become all time favorites of most kids are The Lion King, Toy Story, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, The little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella and of course Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Some of the less known but equally enticing movies are the sequels to the Lion King, Dumbo, Lilo and Stitch, Pooh Bear and the Kim Possible series.

In spite of the high levels of endearment that the movies enjoy among most people, there are rumors galore about how there are countless hidden references to perverted things in the animated movies. The most known references are made to the tower on the cover of The Little Mermaid that resembles the male genitalia, the apparent erection of the priest in the wedding scene of the same movie and the dust taking the form of the word ‘sex’ in The Lion King. Hearsay has it that Donald Duck has used vulgar words umpteen times during angry outbreaks.

Some opine that these subtle references have become a tradition at the film studios. This tradition started due to the fact that Walt Disney did not assign relevant credits to the creative animators. These animators, then, took to including hidden codes in the animation scenes to get back. One such example is that of the shorts that Goofy wears. If you look close enough, you will probably see names of artists written on these shorts. Though the given instance seems possible, the inclusion of debauchery in the animated Disney movies is debatable and it remains a question as to whether it is a fact or the Rorschach effect.

The Truman Show

“The Truman Show” is a profoundly disturbing movie. On the surface, it deals with the worn out issue of the intermingling of life and the media.

Examples for such incestuous relationships abound:

Ronald Reagan, the cinematic president was also a presidential movie star. In another movie (“The Philadelphia Experiment”) a defrosted Rip Van Winkle exclaims upon seeing Reagan on television (40 years after his forced hibernation started): “I know this guy, he used to play Cowboys in the movies”.

Candid cameras monitor the lives of webmasters (website owners) almost 24 hours a day. The resulting images are continuously posted on the Web and are available to anyone with a computer.

The last decade witnessed a spate of films, all concerned with the confusion between life and the imitations of life, the media. The ingenious “Capitan Fracasse”, “Capricorn One”, “Sliver”, “Wag the Dog” and many lesser films have all tried to tackle this (un)fortunate state of things and its moral and practical implications.

The blurring line between life and its representation in the arts is arguably the main theme of “The Truman Show”. The hero, Truman, lives in an artificial world, constructed especially for him. He was born and raised there. He knows no other place. The people around him – unbeknownst to him – are all actors. His life is monitored by 5000 cameras and broadcast live to the world, 24 hours a day, every day. He is spontaneous and funny because he is unaware of the monstrosity of which he is the main cogwheel.

But Peter Weir, the movie’s director, takes this issue one step further by perpetrating a massive act of immorality on screen. Truman is lied to, cheated, deprived of his ability to make choices, controlled and manipulated by sinister, half-mad Shylocks. As I said, he is unwittingly the only spontaneous, non-scripted, “actor” in the on-going soaper of his own life. All the other figures in his life, including his parents, are actors. Hundreds of millions of viewers and voyeurs plug in to take a peep, to intrude upon what Truman innocently and honestly believes to be his privacy. They are shown responding to various dramatic or anti-climactic events in Truman’s life. That we are the moral equivalent of these viewers-voyeurs, accomplices to the same crimes, comes as a shocking realization to us. We are (live) viewers and they are (celluloid) viewers. We both enjoy Truman’s inadvertent, non-consenting, exhibitionism. We know the truth about Truman and so do they. Of course, we are in a privileged moral position because we know it is a movie and they know it is a piece of raw life that they are watching. But moviegoers throughout Hollywood’s history have willingly and insatiably participated in numerous “Truman Shows”. The lives (real or concocted) of the studio stars were brutally exploited and incorporated in their films. Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwyck, James Cagney all were forced to spill their guts in cathartic acts of on camera repentance and not so symbolic humiliation. “Truman Shows” is the more common phenomenon in the movie industry.

Then there is the question of the director of the movie as God and of God as the director of a movie. The members of his team – technical and non-technical alike – obey Christoff, the director, almost blindly. They suspend their better moral judgement and succumb to his whims and to the brutal and vulgar aspects of his pervasive dishonesty and sadism. The torturer loves his victims. They define him and infuse his life with meaning. Caught in a narrative, the movie says, people act immorally.

(IN)famous psychological experiments support this assertion. Students were led to administer what they thought were “deadly” electric shocks to their colleagues or to treat them bestially in simulated prisons. They obeyed orders. So did all the hideous genocidal criminals in history. The Director Weir asks: should God be allowed to be immoral or should he be bound by morality and ethics? Should his decisions and actions be constrained by an over-riding code of right and wrong? Should we obey his commandments blindly or should we exercise judgement? If we do exercise judgement are we then being immoral because God (and the Director Christoff) know more (about the world, about us, the viewers and about Truman), know better, are omnipotent? Is the exercise of judgement the usurpation of divine powers and attributes? Isn’t this act of rebelliousness bound to lead us down the path of apocalypse?

It all boils down to the question of free choice and free will versus the benevolent determinism imposed by an omniscient and omnipotent being. What is better: to have the choice and be damned (almost inevitably, as in the biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden) – or to succumb to the superior wisdom of a supreme being? A choice always involves a dilemma. It is the conflict between two equivalent states, two weighty decisions whose outcomes are equally desirable and two identically-preferable courses of action. Where there is no such equivalence – there is no choice, merely the pre-ordained (given full knowledge) exercise of a preference or inclination. Bees do not choose to make honey. A fan of football does not choose to watch a football game. He is motivated by a clear inequity between the choices that he faces. He can read a book or go to the game. His decision is clear and pre-determined by his predilection and by the inevitable and invariable implementation of the principle of pleasure. There is no choice here. It is all rather automatic. But compare this to the choice some victims had to make between two of their children in the face of Nazi brutality. Which child to sentence to death – which one to sentence to life? Now, this is a real choice. It involves conflicting emotions of equal strength. One must not confuse decisions, opportunities and choice. Decisions are the mere selection of courses of action. This selection can be the result of a choice or the result of a tendency (conscious, unconscious, or biological-genetic). Opportunities are current states of the world, which allow for a decision to be made and to affect the future state of the world. Choices are our conscious experience of moral or other dilemmas.

Christoff finds it strange that Truman – having discovered the truth – insists upon his right to make choices, i.e., upon his right to experience dilemmas. To the Director, dilemmas are painful, unnecessary, destructive, or at best disruptive. His utopian world – the one he constructed for Truman – is choice-free and dilemma-free. Truman is programmed not in the sense that his spontaneity is extinguished. Truman is wrong when, in one of the scenes, he keeps shouting: “Be careful, I am spontaneous”. The Director and fat-cat capitalistic producers want him to be spontaneous, they want him to make decisions. But they do not want him to make choices. So they influence his preferences and predilections by providing him with an absolutely totalitarian, micro-controlled, repetitive environment. Such an environment reduces the set of possible decisions so that there is only one favourable or acceptable decision (outcome) at any junction. Truman does decide whether to walk down a certain path or not. But when he does decide to walk – only one path is available to him. His world is constrained and limited – not his actions.

Actually, Truman’s only choice in the movie leads to an arguably immoral decision. He abandons ship. He walks out on the whole project. He destroys an investment of billions of dollars, people’s lives and careers. He turns his back on some of the actors who seem to really be emotionally attached to him. He ignores the good and pleasure that the show has brought to the lives of millions of people (the viewers). He selfishly and vengefully goes away. He knows all this. By the time he makes his decision, he is fully informed. He knows that some people may commit suicide, go bankrupt, endure major depressive episodes, do drugs. But this massive landscape of resulting devastation does not deter him. He prefers his narrow, personal, interest. He walks.

But Truman did not ask or choose to be put in his position. He found himself responsible for all these people without being consulted. There was no consent or act of choice involved. How can anyone be responsible for the well-being and lives of other people – if he did not CHOOSE to be so responsible? Moreover, Truman had the perfect moral right to think that these people wronged him. Are we morally responsible and accountable for the well-being and lives of those who wrong us? True Christians are, for instance.

Moreover, most of us, most of the time, find ourselves in situations which we did not help mould by our decisions. We are unwillingly cast into the world. We do not provide prior consent to being born. This fundamental decision is made for us, forced upon us. This pattern persists throughout our childhood and adolescence: decisions are made elsewhere by others and influence our lives profoundly. As adults we are the objects – often the victims – of the decisions of corrupt politicians, mad scientists, megalomaniac media barons, gung-ho generals and demented artists. This world is not of our making and our ability to shape and influence it is very limited and rather illusory. We live in our own “Truman Show”. Does this mean that we are not morally responsible for others?

We are morally responsible even if we did not choose the circumstances and the parameters and characteristics of the universe that we inhabit. The Swedish Count Wallenberg imperilled his life (and lost it) smuggling hunted Jews out of Nazi occupied Europe. He did not choose, or helped to shape Nazi Europe. It was the brainchild of the deranged Director Hitler. Having found himself an unwilling participant in Hitler’s horror show, Wallenberg did not turn his back and opted out. He remained within the bloody and horrific set and did his best. Truman should have done the same. Jesus said that he should have loved his enemies. He should have felt and acted with responsibility towards his fellow human beings, even towards those who wronged him greatly.

But this may be an inhuman demand. Such forgiveness and magnanimity are the reserve of God. And the fact that Truman’s tormentors did not see themselves as such and believed that they were acting in his best interests and that they were catering to his every need – does not absolve them from their crimes. Truman should have maintained a fine balance between his responsibility to the show, its creators and its viewers and his natural drive to get back at his tormentors. The source of the dilemma (which led to his act of choosing) is that the two groups overlap. Truman found himself in the impossible position of being the sole guarantor of the well-being and lives of his tormentors. To put the question in sharper relief: are we morally obliged to save the life and livelihood of someone who greatly wronged us? Or is vengeance justified in such a case?

A very problematic figure in this respect is that of Truman’s best and childhood friend. They grew up together, shared secrets, emotions and adventures. Yet he lies to Truman constantly and under the Director’s instructions. Everything he says is part of a script. It is this disinformation that convinces us that he is not Truman’s true friend. A real friend is expected, above all, to provide us with full and true information and, thereby, to enhance our ability to choose. Truman’s true love in the Show tried to do it. She paid the price: she was ousted from the show. But she tried to provide Truman with a choice. It is not sufficient to say the right things and make the right moves. Inner drive and motivation are required and the willingness to take risks (such as the risk of providing Truman with full information about his condition). All the actors who played Truman’s parents, loving wife, friends and colleagues, miserably failed on this score.

It is in this mimicry that the philosophical key to the whole movie rests. A Utopia cannot be faked. Captain Nemo’s utopian underwater city was a real Utopia because everyone knew everything about it. People were given a choice (though an irreversible and irrevocable one). They chose to become lifetime members of the reclusive Captain’s colony and to abide by its (overly rational) rules. The Utopia came closest to extinction when a group of stray survivors of a maritime accident were imprisoned in it against their expressed will. In the absence of choice, no utopia can exist. In the absence of full, timely and accurate information, no choice can exist. Actually, the availability of choice is so crucial that even when it is prevented by nature itself – and not by the designs of more or less sinister or monomaniac people – there can be no Utopia. In H.G. Wells’ book “The Time Machine”, the hero wanders off to the third millennium only to come across a peaceful Utopia. Its members are immortal, don’t have to work, or think in order to survive. Sophisticated machines take care of all their needs. No one forbids them to make choices. There simply is no need to make them. So the Utopia is fake and indeed ends badly.

Finally, the “Truman Show” encapsulates the most virulent attack on capitalism in a long time. Greedy, thoughtless money machines in the form of billionaire tycoon-producers exploit Truman’s life shamelessly and remorselessly in the ugliest display of human vices possible. The Director indulges in his control-mania. The producers indulge in their monetary obsession. The viewers (on both sides of the silver screen) indulge in voyeurism. The actors vie and compete in the compulsive activity of furthering their petty careers. It is a repulsive canvas of a disintegrating world. Perhaps Christoff is right after al when he warns Truman about the true nature of the world. But Truman chooses. He chooses the exit door leading to the outer darkness over the false sunlight in the Utopia that he leaves behind.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

“The Talented Mr. Ripley” is an Hitchcockian and blood-curdling study of the psychopath and his victims. At the centre of this masterpiece, set in the exquisitely decadent scapes of Italy, is a titanic encounter between Ripley, the aforementioned psychopath protagonist and young Greenleaf, a consummate narcissist.

Ripley is a cartoonishly poor young adult whose overriding desire is to belong to a higher – or at least, richer – social class. While he waits upon the subjects of his not so hidden desires, he receives an offer he cannot refuse: to travel to Italy to retrieve the spoiled and hedonistic son of a shipbuilding magnate, Greenleaf Senior. He embarks upon a study of Junior’s biography, personality, likes and hobbies. In a chillingly detailed process, he actually assumes Greenleaf’s identity. Disembarking from a luxurious Cunard liner in his destination, Italy, he “confesses” to a gullible textile-heiress that he is the young Greenleaf, traveling incognito.

Thus, we are subtly introduced to the two over-riding themes of the antisocial personality disorder (still labeled by many professional authorities “psychopathy” and “sociopathy”): an overwhelming dysphoria and an even more overweening drive to assuage this angst by belonging. The psychopath is an unhappy person. He is besieged by recurrent depression bouts, hypochondria and an overpowering sense of alienation and drift. He is bored with his own life and is permeated by a seething and explosive envy of the lucky, the mighty, the clever, the have it alls, the know it alls, the handsome, the happy – in short: his opposites. He feels discriminated against and dealt a poor hand in the great poker game called life. He is driven obsessively to right these perceived wrongs and feels entirely justified in adopting whatever means he deems necessary in pursuing this goal.

Ripley’s reality test is maintained throughout the film. In other words – while he gradually merges with the object of his admiring emulation, the young Greenleaf – Ripley can always tell the difference. After he kills Greenleaf in self-defense, he assumes his name, wears his clothes, cashes his checks and makes phone calls from his rooms. But he also murders – or tries to murder – those who suspect the truth. These acts of lethal self-preservation prove conclusively that he knows who he is and that he fully realizes that his acts are parlously illegal.

Young Greenleaf is young, captivatingly energetic, infinitely charming, breathtakingly handsome and deceivingly emotional. He lacks real talents – he know how to play only six jazz tunes, can’t make up his musical mind between his faithful sax and a newly alluring drum kit and, an aspiring writer, can’t even spell. These shortcomings and discrepancies are tucked under a glittering facade of non-chalance, refreshing spontaneity, an experimental spirit, unrepressed sexuality and unrestrained adventurism. But Greenleaf Jr. is a garden variety narcissist. He cheats on his lovely and loving girlfriend, Marge. He refuses to lend money – of which he seems to have an unlimited supply, courtesy his ever more disenchanted father – to a girl he impregnated. She commits suicide and he blames the primitiveness of the emergency services, sulks and kicks his precious record player. In the midst of this infantile temper tantrum the rudiments of a conscience are visible. He evidently feels guilty. At least for a while.

Greenleaf Jr. falls in and out of love and friendship in a predictable pendulous rhythm. He idealizes his beaus and then devalues them. He finds them to be the quiddity of fascination one moment – and the distilled essence of boredom the next. And he is not shy about expressing his distaste and disenchantment. He is savagely cruel as he calls Ripley a leach who has taken over his life and his possessions (having previously invited him to do so in no uncertain terms). He says that he is relieved to see him go and he cancels off-handedly elaborate plans they made together. Greenleaf Jr. maintains a poor record of keeping promises and a rich record of violence, as we discover towards the end of this suspenseful, taut yarn.

Ripley himself lacks an identity. He is a binary automaton driven by a set of two instructions – become someone and overcome resistance. He feels like a nobody and his overriding ambition is to be somebody, even if he has to fake it, or steal it. His only talents, he openly admits, are to fake both personalities and papers. He is a predator and he hunts for congruence, cohesion and meaning. He is in constant search of a family. Greenleaf Jr., he declares festively, is the older brother he never had. Together with the long suffering fiancée in waiting, Marge, they are a family. Hasn’t Greenleaf Sr. actually adopted him?

This identity disturbance, which is at the psychodynamic root of both pathological narcissism and rapacious psychopathy, is all-pervasive. Both Ripley and Greenleaf Jr. are not sure who they are. Ripley wants to be Greenleaf Jr. – not because of the latter’s admirable personality, but because of his money. Greenleaf Jr. cultivates a False Self of a jazz giant in the making and the author of the Great American Novel but he is neither and he bitterly knows it. Even their sexual identity is not fully formed. Ripley is at once homoerotic, autoerotic and heteroerotic. He has a succession of homosexual lovers (though apparently only platonic ones). Yet, he is attracted to women. He falls desperately in love with Greenleaf’s False Self and it is the revelation of the latter’s dilapidated True Self that leads to the atavistically bloody scene in the boat.

But Ripley is a different -and more ominous – beast altogether. He rambles on about the metaphorical dark chamber of his secrets, the key to which he wishes to share with a “loved” one. But this act of sharing (which never materializes) is intended merely to alleviate the constant pressure of the hot pursuit he is subjected to by the police and others. He disposes with equal equanimity of both loved ones and the occasional prying acquaintance. At least twice he utters words of love as he actually strangles his newfound inamorato and tries to slash an old and rekindled flame. He hesitates not a split second when confronted with an offer to betray Greenleaf Sr., his nominal employer and benefactor, and abscond with his money. He falsifies signatures with ease, makes eye contact convincingly, flashes the most heart rending smile when embarrassed or endangered. He is a caricature of the American dream: ambitious, driven, winsome, well versed in the mantras of the bourgeoisie. But beneath this thin veneer of hard learned, self-conscious and uneasy civility – lurks a beast of prey best characterized by the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual):

“Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior, deceitfulness as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others to personal profit or pleasure, impulsivity or failure to plan ahead… reckless disregard for safety of self or others… (and above all) lack of remorse.” (From the criteria of the Antisocial Personality Disorder).

But perhaps the most intriguing portraits are those of the victims. Marge insists, in the face of the most callous and abusive behavior, that there is something “tender” in Greenleaf Jr. When she confronts the beguiling monster, Ripley, she encounters the fate of all victims of psychopaths: disbelief, pity and ridicule. The truth is too horrible to contemplate, let alone comprehend. Psychopaths are inhuman in the most profound sense of this compounded word. Their emotions and conscience have been amputated and replaced by phantom imitations. But it is rare to pierce their meticulously crafted facade. They more often than not go on to great success and social acceptance while their detractors are relegated to the fringes of society. Both Meredith and Peter, who had the misfortune of falling in deep, unrequited love with Ripley, are punished. One by losing his life, the other by losing Ripley time and again, mysteriously, capriciously, cruelly.

Thus, ultimately, the film is an intricate study of the pernicious ways of psychopathology. Mental disorder is a venom not confined to its source. It spreads and affects its environment in a myriad surreptitiously subtle forms. It is a hydra, growing one hundred heads where one was severed. Its victims writhe and as abuse is piled upon trauma – they turn to stone, the mute witnesses of horror, the stalactites and stalagmites of pain untold and unrecountable. For their tormentors are often as talented as Mr. Ripley is and they are as helpless and as clueless as his victims are.

The Rise of Online DVD Rental

In March 2006 I launched the UK DVD Rental Guide Website.  The website is devoted to providing independent advice, reviews and rankings of the major providers of online DVD rental service in the UK. The idea for the website originated from my passion for DVD’s and from the difficulty of choosing the right online DVD rental service.

Online DVD rental is slowly but surely making its mark on the entertainment industry and is a powerful rival for its traditional highstreet alternative.  The phenomenon of online DVD rental may ultimately replace the traditional form of DVD rental!

Since its launch, the website has evolved to where it is today. It sets out each of the major providers of online DVD Rental services, the prices, the package options, the number of titles available and any free trial that is offered. Each service provider is rated against predifined criteria and then ranked against each other. We continually check for changes in the services and re-rate and re-rank accordingly.

Here’s why we think online DVD Rental is Better:

·    Cheaper. The prices for online rental are much cheaper than the highstreet alternative.

·    Convenient. No need to go out to the store. Just browse and select titles online from the comfort of your own home and they appear in the post. Postage is FREE both ways.

·    No Due Dates. There are no dates by which you have to return the DVD’s. Keep them as long as you like!

·    No late return charges. Watch your DVD’s without fear of a charge for late return. There’s no late return charges – EVER!

·    More to choose from. With upto 57,000 titles there’s more DVD’s to choose from than you can shake a stick at.

·    Completely Risk Free Trial. Most of the DVD rental companies let you try before you sign-up. It costs absolutely nothing and there are no hidden charges.

We hope you enjoy the UK DVD Rental Guide and it helps you choose the best service for your needs. We will keep testing and will make sure the guide is comprehensive, up to date and continues to ensure it provides independent advice.

The MPAA Allows Movie Downloads- Are They Worth Your Dime?

What Are Movie Download Services?
Movie download services are exactly what they sound like: a service that allows you to download movies from the Internet onto your hard drive or a DVD. Though this isn’t a new concept, it is relatively new to the legal world of consumerism. Though ‘pirates’ have been making free download of movies available for quite some time, movie studios are now getting in on the action and offering access to their movies for download the day they hit the stores in DVD format – for a fee, of course.

Who’s Who In Movie Download Services?
In the relatively new world of legitimate movie download services, there are surprisingly many players, but only a few of them are major. There’s Movielink and Sony’s CinemaNow which offer old and new movies for purchase or 24 hour rental. Rental fees are comparable to the local video store but purchase is more expensive than if you were to buy the DVD. ClickStar, backed by Danny DeVito among other big names in Hollywood, is another up and comer in the world of movie download services, but this one’s draw is that it will offer movies for download while they are still showing in the theater. It will also feature a streaming channel devoted to documentaries.

AT&T is teaming up with Vongo, another movie downloading site, to offer its DSL service in concert and duo promotions. Different from Movielink and CinemaNow, Vongo is a subscription service offered for a monthly fee which allows its members unlimited access to movies, videos, and a streaming Starz channel. Pay per view movies are available as well for an additional fee.

Movie Download Services: The Nitty Gritty

– Price – Ranging anywhere from $10-$20, the irony is downloading movies legally isn’t cheap. In order to appease the retailers who make big bucks on DVDs released in stores, the online downloading services are keeping their fees in the clouds. Which of course, doesn’t hurt their pocketbook, either.

– Availability – It depends. Different services have different deals with different movie studios. As for old movies, those are being added all the time. But the nice thing is, if they have it, you can get it – instantly.

– Space – You will need between 1200 and 2000 MBs of free space to store your movie. Depending on your system, this may be a lot or a little. Some services may allow you to burn your download to a DVD, but only if you’re buying the movie and even then, most won’t.

– Download Time – This is no time for dial-up, that’s for sure. Anything DSL and faster should get you your movie in under an hour with an average of 35 to 40 minutes, and that’s if you want it fast and grainy. If you’re willing to wait a little longer, say, up to two hours, you can download a higher quality version. A nice feature that some services offer is the ability to start watching the movie while it’s still downloading.

– Technical Requirements – At least Windows Media Player 10, fast Internet connection, Internet Explorer 6.0, Windows XP. You might be able to get away with older versions, but it isn’t recommended. And yes, did you note – it’s all PC and no Mac. That’s right. PC users only, please.

– Computer Viewing Only – Currently, that’s the state of things. That is, unless you choose a service that allows you to download it to some other electronic handheld device of your choosing, like PSP or iPod. Of course, you could always use an S-video jack to hook your computer to your TV and watch it on the big screen. Some services allow limited DVD burning, but they may restrict the DVD to playing only in the computer to which the movie was downloaded, allowing your fancy DVD player to gather dust.

– Buy Versus Rent – It’s a strange situation at this point, but different studios offer different services different licenses to different movies. So, you may only be able to rent a title through one service that another is offering for sale. Other services may not have any access to certain titles while others do. There’s no standard just yet, so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

What’s the Benefit of Movie Download Services?
Convenience! Forget long lines at the theater, the video store being out of a new release, or waiting in virtual queue to get your mailed DVD through a subscription service. No more concern about court cases and legal fees for downloading movies illegally or spyware from file sharing applications that will slow down your computer if not cripple it beyond repair. Then, of course, there’s the fact that you can watch the newest movies as many times as you like on your personal computer and instantly upon purchase – no waiting and no driving to the store.

What’s the Downside of Movie Download Services?
At the moment, cost and restricted viewing access. You may not necessarily want to watch a movie on your computer when you just invested $2000 in a big screen HDTV. And you may not want to invest $20 in a movie that you can’t even resell online if you don’t like it. If you have a slow internet connection, the download time may be a bummer, too, especially if you’re trying to use your computer for other things while the process slows your computer to a painful snail pace. And if you use a Mac, well, obviously, the downside is that movie download services simply don’t exist. Then, what if a virus infects the computer where all your movies are stored? Yup. Have to buy them all over again.

Movie Download Services – Yay or Nay?
The state of affairs being what they are – that is, in their ugly braces and zits prepubescent stage – probably nay. Remember the first BETA machines? Or the $700 CD players back in the ’80s? When movie download service lowers their prices and speed up the technology, allow for actual DVD burnings that include the extras and TV viewings as well as access to films that are still in theaters, then yay! In the meantime, sticking with higher quality DVDs that don’t discriminate against Mac users and big screen television sets and allow for resale later on. Unless you have to see the movie This Very Second, movie download services are not yet the incredible service they have the potential to be in the future.

Superman: A Film Franchise

Superman Returns, the new film by Bryan Singer, is the fifth movie to tell the story of a simple young boy from another planet who falls to earth and grows up to be the Man of Steel, helping people and averting disasters that would end the world.

Here is a quick look at the first four films, that were made in the 70s and 80s.

Superman (1978) – The original film sees Christopher Reeve play Superman.
With the planet Krypton facing destruction, scientist Jor-El takes drastic measures to preserve the Kryptonian race – he sends his infant son Kal-El to Earth to become a champion of truth and justice. Kal-El grows up as Clark Kent and eventually learns the truth about his family and realises that he must use his abilities for good. Clark moves to Metropolis where he becomes a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper, and also becomes his alter-ego, Superman, a defender of law and order. However, deep below Metropolis Lex Luthor is plotting evil. Can Superman thwart his nasty plans and save millions of innocent people?

Superman II (1980) – Christopher Reeve returns – The adventure continues.
Superman saves France by throwing a nuclear bomb deep into space. Unfortunately the bomb explodes, freeing three Kryptonian criminals from captivity. Meanwhile Superman has decided to relinquish his superhero powers to live happily ever after with Lois Lane. As the criminals, led by General Zod, join up with Lex Luthor to take over the world, Clark Kent has to decide whether to try to regain Superman’s powers and face his biggest battle yet.

Superman III (1983) – If the world’s most powerful computer can control even Superman…no one on earth is safe.
Superman has saved the world against villains from Earth and from Krypton, but will he cope when a super-computer, and its programmer, set out to destroy him? In between his attempts to save the world, Clark returns to his old High School and meets an old flame.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) – Nuclear Power. In the best hands, it is dangerous. In the hands of Lex Luthor, it is pure evil. This is Superman’s greatest battle. And it is for all of us.
In an attempt to take over the world arms market Lex Luthor clones Superman to make Nuclear Man. Luthor hopes Nuclear Man will take on and beat Superman. Thankfully, Superman saves the Statue of Liberty, repulses a volcanic eruption of Mount Etna, and rebuilds the demolished Great Wall of China. And saved the world.

Stardust

Based on the Novel Written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Matthew Vaughn, STARDUST (http://www.stardustmovie.com/) features a star-studded cast including Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, Jason Flemyng, Peter O’Toole, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro (http://www.stardustmovie.com/site.htm).

Coming to theaters on August 10th, 2007, Stardust Movie is set in England and goes to la-la-land, another magical world, as the story progresses.

The film, an adaptation of the novel by Neil Gaiman which was illustrated by Charles Vess, is an adventure fantasy. A young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) woos a village beauty Victoria (Sienna Miller), promising to bring her a falling star. His journey takes him beyond the walls of his village to a mysterious and forbidden land.

When Tristan finds the star, he is star-struck, and stunned to discover that the star is not a lump of meteoric rock, but an angry, injured girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes) – who has no desire to be dragged across the world and be presented to anyone’s girlfriend.

Sadly, Tristan is not the only one seeking the star. A dying King’s (Peter O’Toole) four sons – not to mention the ghosts of their three dead brothers – all need the star as they vie for the throne.

Three evil witches, led by the murderous Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) seek the star’s heart to make them young again.

Tristan and Yvaine are forced to flee together, encountering the captain of a flying pirate ship (Robert De Niro) and a shady trader named Ferdy the Fence (Ricky Gervais, star of the British hit comedy TV show, The Office) along the way.

As they travel Tristan discovers the meaning of true love, but is blissfully unaware that he’s leading Yvaine into even more danger…

The Story Behind Stardust: “It mostly started in 1991,” explained Gaiman. “Charles and I won the world fantasy award for Sandman 19: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We were out in Tucson, Arizona where we actually astonished ourselves and everybody else by winning the award. We astonished everybody else to the point that the judges, the secret committee behind the judging, got together the following morning and changed the rules so it could never happen again.

“That night I went out to a party held by a lady by the name of Terry Windling out in the desert. And in the Tucson desert, I got to watch a falling star. In England, they’re just sort of a streak of light across the sky. I discovered if you’re in the Tucson desert and you watch, it’s like this little diamond coming down. You go, ‘My God, that was….,’ just watching it. I thought, ‘What if you went to get that falling star?’ And then I thought, ‘And what if it wasn’t a star, it was a girl. And what if she had a broken leg and a foul-temper and had no desire to be dragged halfway across the world and presented to anybody’s would-be fiancée?’ Suddenly, there was the story.”

“We did the art as a sort of presentation to publishers first,” said Gaiman. “So in ’93, Charles did a bunch of the paintings and so it’s sort of taken a while to wend its way into the world. It was published in ’98, I think, and then ’99 without the pictures because we looked at our contract and discovered that DC had given us those rights without really noticing they had. The rest is history or economics or something.”