TORONTO - I’ve come from the deep South to the Great White North to wear computer monitors on my face.
My involvement in the Virtual Reality world has led me to the Immersed 2014. This is a town built on SCTV, the Kids In the Hall and the dashed dreams of Leaf fans. For two days, it was the entry point for the future of computer technology experience.
The subtopic in nearly every conversation was “How can we make sure VR doesn’t end up in the same wastepile as 3D HDTV and Google Glass.” The big message was that VR needs to make sure it doesn’t have to rely on big companies to control its fate. TV manufacturers were all pumped up about 3D HDTV since it would bring the gimmick of the movies to your house. But they didn’t seem to notice that first consumers had an issue with keeping track of the 3-D glasses. Think of all the times you lose your cable remote. Over half of the time, you find it under your ass. Now this isn’t a great place to find your regular glasses. Consumers weren’t hot on wanting to crack 3-D lense with their butts. And studios and cable channels weren’t hot on creating real 3-D content. Sure ESPN wanted to make 3-D sporting events, but sports have a very limited rerun audience. Their 3-D channel seemed to rerun the same five college football games for the entire year.
What ruined Google Glass? Google. They were overpriced at $1,500 a pair and a monthly fee to stay hooked up. It basically did less than the average smartphone for ten times the price. Plus they quickly became the wearing option of complete assholes. Nothing said “Douchebag Alert!” than a guy with the Google Glass walking up to Starbucks. Only one person at the conference dared to wear Google Glass and it seemed to be an ironic nostalgic statement than cutting edge technology.
VR needs to control its own destiny. Sure Oculus Rift (powered by billions from Facebook) is the big company in the middle of this revolution. But luckily it has made itself open source so outsiders can easily create content. I quickly learned during the Oculus has plenty of competition from other headgear including the Totem. The biggest competition of Oculus is your cellphone. The cellphone seemed to be the most immediate outlet since you could use folded up cardboard to glimpse into an unseen dimension. Most people felt this was a great introductory space for the curious who are overwhelmed at the thought of buying the headgear and getting their PC upgraded to handle the virtual world. While it doesn’t offer the same resolution or eyeball space, it does offer a glimpse. It lets people know the future is coming.
The Oculus Rift will be the Christmas gift of 2015. Judging from the amount of companies creating programming, people will be celebrating New Years Eve in a virtual world. This is going to be bigger than the Christmas your dad finally sprung for AOL. Although it should be less frustrating that five nights of busy signals on the 56K modem.
I already know how much Oculus has come to dominate the conversation since nothing gets ears perked up faster than when I say, “I was playing Alien Isolation in the Rift.” The guy at Game Stop starred in my eyes to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be killed by alien in a 360 degree environment. Games will be truly revolutionized in the environment. Luckily there was also talk about the psychological effect of being attacked in a 360 space. Will there be true PTSD victims from video effects? Will these immersive moments enhance your nightmares? There’s not TV frame to remind you that it’s not real. Some college professors will be making a fortune with their pontifications. But that’s another gravy train.
What was nice about the conference was that it wasn’t too large. I had the chance to meet nearly everyone attending, presenting and demoing over the course of 2 days. Conversations were less product pitches and more questions of how it can be altered to fit another project. This was a place where the word “hack” wasn’t a scare word.
Even though Oculus Rift didn’t send a representative (that we could identify), there were plenty of tales that have leaked out of the new Wonka factory. None of which I can feel safe to report her simply because they might have been in metric. The biggest one was the hint that Oculus was aiming to put out their first consumer headgear before next Christmas. But you never know. This is a project that needs to be near perfect since it can’t end up being ridiculed like Google Glass. The Oculus Rift has the chance to be the most revolutionary addition to your computer since the mouse.
The biggest thing that must be done to make sure VR survives is to keep it away from douchebags wearing Google Glass.
This was seen at the Kubrick Exhibit at TIFF. I wiped my drool off the camera lens.
GIVING THANKS ANYWAY
PLYMOUTH, MA - For all the BS about the war on Christmas, conservative media doesn’t seem to give a crap that Thanksgiving has been reduced to a barely existing holiday. Fox News will publicly shame anyone who says Happy Thanksgiving in the middle of November since that’s not “Merry Christmas!” Major retailers have even given up waiting for Black Friday.
They want to open up their front doors before Santa wraps up the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is wrong!
Thanksgiving dinner should be about enjoying company and not plotting how to hit the Walmart to get cheap plastic crap for ten cents less. Thanksgiving is not Christmas’ starting pistol. Thanksgiving doesn’t have a chocolate in the advent calendar.
Let Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving.
Enjoy the day and don’t see it as anything else besides Thanksgiving. Don’t even think about the pilgrims if their history is rather bothersome. They probably wouldn’t enjoy the day since they’re rather be dying of dysentery. Maybe you’ve had a crappy year and are sick of everyone in your immediate circle of family and friends. Then you really need to just find a nice restaurant that’s open on Thanksgiving and tip the wait staff for not making you eat lasagna for one at home. You can be thankful for the fact that you’re not going to care about Christmas during Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time must be your motto.
What are we thankful for this year? Here’s a few things I’m thankful for in 2014:
Miley Cyrus keeping up her weirdness. She has truly taken her Disney image and messed with it until it’s an art project worthy of a MOMA exhibit. Is she drugged out of her gourd? Maybe. But she’s doing more with her messed up mind than 99 percent of the other folks who get stoned on the weekend to blow off steam.
Raleigh’s School Kids Records is a thankful place to visit. How cool is this record store? Along with the vinyl, they have a beer on tap. That’s right, you can browse and booze. Plus on weekends, they have live music acts after dark. I’m thankful this concept didn’t exist when I was in college since I would have flunked out from being drunk while drooling over King Crimson imports from Japan. Is there a King Crimson microbrew? That’d be a cool name for a red beer. Not sure if I’d order the Larks Tongue in Aspic Stout. Owner Stephen Judge tipped me off to the brilliance of Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds of Country Music album. Which I passed on the favor by insisting Apple legend Steve Wozniak go see Sturgill in concert. I hope that the Woz will be thankful for me telling him about Sturgill.
Adam West being alive when Batman came out on Blu-ray last week. Getting to see the high definition remasters is a major bliss. There’s so much more detail in the Batcave and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman. It’s like I’m watching Batman with brand new eyes. Plus this is the 20th anniversary of Adam West hosting the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon.
The ultimate way to be thankful on Thanksgiving is to reconnect with the event that made this day so special all those years ago. Naturally I’m talking about the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathons that ran from 1991 to 1995 on Comedy Central. Before every channel ran marathons of their most popular show for days without any reason, MST3K was allowed to run like the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon without a donation number. It became an event in my house, to the complete and utter frustration of my mother. What made it extra special was that before each episode, there was a new sketch that tied it all together. This wasn’t just a bunch of shows tossed onto the air to save a programmer “thinking time.” This was a reason to set the VCR to record 10 minutes at the top of every other hour. We didn’t want to miss a segment in case the turkey nap turned into turkey sleep.
Thankfully this Turkey Day (which can include Christmas) can be celebrated with a boxset of MST3K. Here’s some details from Shout! Factory:
The Turkey Day Collection Box Set, available November 25th, features four never before on DVD episodes,Jungle Goddess The Painted Hills The Screaming Skull and Squirm. The set is stuffed with bonus features, including exclusive new Turkey Day episode introductions by Joel Hodgson, a new interview with Squirmstar Don Scardino, new featurettes Undercooked & Overstuffed: Inside the Turkey Day Marathon, Bumper To Bumper: Turkey Day Through The Years, This Film May Kill You: Making ‘The Screaming Skull’ and Gumby & Clokey; as well as four exclusive Mini Posters by artist Steve Vance!
A video with information about all of Shout! Factory’s Turkey Day activities can be seen here:
Let us give thanks to the Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXI The Turkey Day Collection boxset. It’s more juicy than a Butterball and tasty than sweet potato pie. The big bonus feature is all three of the bonus bits from the Turkey Day marathons that featured Joel, Mike, the Bots and the Mad Scientists. In less than an hour, you can watch an event that took three days to digest in the early ’90s. How come that wasn’t a fact in Cosmos? But it is the reason to buy this boxset and cherish it for every Thanksgiving. Like you mom does with those cheesy pilgrim candles that never get lit up? Although you can get lit up while watching Jungle Goddess. This is a film that make Tarzan look authentic. Basic plot is a white woman’s plane crashes in the heart of Africa. She finds herself being worshipped by the locals. Somehow she still needs to be rescued. This is truly a film about white people problems. Joel and the Bots have a field day with the nonsense on screen. The Painted Hills features Lassie in a revenge flick. He’s out to kill the man who killed a miner. I suspect that Lassie beat Bruce Dern for the role. The Screaming Skull gets plenty of quips thanks to the joy that can come from a skull puppet. It’s amazing how a film that wants to pay tribute to Hitchcock can’t get work its way to a Brian DePalma tribute. Squirm remains the greatest film about what happens when electricity turns worms into killing machines. This should have been prime Oscar bait. The joy of this collection remains its exploration of The Turkey Day marathon. There’s even a documentary about how the brains at Comedy Central actually thought it up. That executive is not the same guy who signed off on Brickleberry.
The ultimate joy of MST3K on Thanksgiving is that it’s about Thanksgiving and turkeys. This isn’t about rushing out to go Christmas shopping. It’s about sharing the rich bounty of badness that these filmmakers once shared with theatergoers.
Pretty Peaches launched the career of Desiree Costeau as the bubbly fun and curvy superstar. She hit at the right time with her Dorothy Hamill haircut. She’s goes out to Virginia City for her dad’s second marriage. But she loses her cool and hits the road. She wrecks her Jeep and gets a bad case of amnesia. Her rescuers take extreme advantage of the situation . They get her to think she doesn’t own the Jeep. She attempts to get her memory jogged via an enema. When she dances at a club to earn money, things get way out of control. The finale involves Peaches reuniting with her family at an orgy. This film was considered way out there for 1978. A lot of taboos were broken. Over the years, the film has been snipped to avoid certain details that might upset more prudish viewers. The folks at Vinegar Syndrome have an uncut version on their remarkable Blu-ray. Desiree dazzles in 1080p. There’s also a DVD in the set. The bonus features include trailers of other films made by director Alex de Rezny. There’s also a vintage interview with de Rezny as he recounts his adult career. There’s also an interview with a reverend who was part of the San Francisco film scene. He had saved de Rezny’s film archive when his widow was going to dump it all. Vinegar Syndrome has already put out the two sequels that didn’t star Costeau.
Peekarama: Fantastic Orgy & Champagne Orgy is a double feature from director Carlos Tobalina that pretty much are about orgies. The first one has a little plot since it’s about a woman who wants to make adult films. The lack of real structure allows Carlos to use outtakes from Her Last Fling (recently released from Vinegar Syndrome). The big star is John Holmes. Champagne Orgy pops open the bottle when Carlos has finished a film. He invites everyone over for a wrap party that turns out to be a movie unto itself. Amazingly funky soundtrack that will bring out the libido beats.
Christmas Evil is the only holiday themed film that should be watched on Thanksgiving night. That is if your family wants to hear John Waters give the commentary track. Waters is gleeful as he talks with director Lewis Jackson. He’s the number one fan of the film so it’s amazing. The movie is about the horror of what happens when a little boy wakes up early to see Santa Claus. Turns out mom was doing a lot more than giving the jolly man in red her cookies. It’s a nasty scar left on the child, but it’s hard to tell. He grows up to get a job at a toy factory. He loves Santa and wears red pajamas. However all is not well. He’s going to track down the naughty children and make them pay for their sins. The film has the feel of an ’80s art house slasher flick as St. Nick gets his revenge. The ending is brilliantly bizarre. This film is a notch above Silent Night, Deadly Night. This should be part of your Festivus viewing pleasures. There’s plenty of bonus features including interview with director Lewis Jackson and star Brandon Maggart. The audition tapes, storyboards and deleted scenes to show how much work went into the film. There’s even the Comment Cards from test screenings including one viewer who just wrote, “Why?” People weren’t so thrilled at Santa going nuts with killer toys. There’s even a red band trailer. “Christmas Evil, the night he dropped in” is a great tagline. Just a thrilling
Vinegar Syndrome is having a great sale if you order directly from their website vinegarsyndrome.com.
Tales From the Crypt & Vault of Horror is a double feature of anthology films made by legendary English horror production house Amicus with directors that also worked for Hammer. Both movies have segments taken from the famous E.C. comics series. They also feature all star casts including a few future superstars. Tales from the Crypt was directed by Freddie Francis (The Doctor and the Devils) back in 1972. Five people are getting a tour of an historic cemetery. Little do they know that they share a common fate. Joan Collins stars in a freakish holiday tale where she kills her husband during Christmas Eve. Things get extra complicated since there’s a madman on the loose dressed as Santa and looking to put heads in his sack. Ian Hendry (from the original The Avengers) has a bad drive with his wife. Peter Cushing (Star Wars) is a garbage man who hates his neighbors. Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange) leads a revolt at the home for the blind. The end of this movie features the original version of The Crypt Keeper. The film was a hit so naturally Amicus went back for more with the sister comic The Vault of Horror as the inspiration. Roy Ward Baker (Scars of Dracula) takes the helm for this anthology. Five people in an elevator get off at the wrong floor. What brought them to this point? Their stories will tell all. Terry-Thomas and his gap tooth rule once more. Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a painter who uses voodoo to get back at art critics and dealers who have been making a fortune off his work. A man goes nuts while trying to figure out the Indian Rope trick. A man finds out that a small town is more than the usual tourist trap. The big bonus of this Blu-ray is an uncut version of The Vault of Horror along with the snipped version that appeared on the old Midnite Movie Double Feature release.
The Expendables 3 is so full of major action stars, the cover cast photograph spills over onto the back of the box. Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren,Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all squeeze into 126 minutes of a movie. Thank goodness nobody tried to open up a Planet Hollywood during the filming since they’d only have Scott Baio lingering around to pimp their t-shirts. The story is once more a ripping tale of soldiers of fortune who have no problem taking on an entire country. Mel Gibson plays an evil arms dealer who is arming the worst of the worst. Harrison Ford wants the Expendables to nab Mel and put him on trial at the Hague. Mel must suffer for the sins of The Beaver. This isn’t easy since Mel is inside his heavily armed fortress in Uzmenistan. This is perfect over the top action from a bunch of actors who need quite a few breathers while being chased by bullets. The real star of the movie is tough guy Kelsey Grammer. He’s able to finally let out all his rage that he needed to give that dog on Frazier. There’s no bonus features, but there is access to the Digital Ultraviolet copy.
History Presents The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection is the best way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday if you want to get away from football and remember when fighting wasn’t symbolic and ruled by instant replays. This collection of 20 DVDs pretty much sums up the last few years of History Channel’s focus on the Great War and the Bigger Sequel. There’s 44 hours worth of TV viewing about the explosive years. The boxset includes the specials History of WWI: The First Modern War, Dogfights, D-Day in HD, WWII in HD, The Color of War, Ultimate WWII Weapons, Patton 360° and The World Wars. There’s more knowledge here about both World Wars than what you’ll get in high school history. This is perfect for your dad or even grandfather who has to remind you of the days your ancestors had to fight the Huns. Both wars get brought together in the insightful The World Wars miniseries.
The Hundred-Foot Journey combines my two great passions: food and Helen Mirren. The woman who stole Red and my heart in Caligula plays the owner of an extra fancy French restaurant that’s properly located in France. She’ lives to create the elegant meal in the countryside effort. It’s so French. However her world is about to get rocked when the abandoned restaurant comes alive with the smells of India. It’s a culture class on the street especially since the Indian restaurant has no problem going over the top to promote itself. Luckily they are very colorful in their schemes so it’s not like a Dave & Busters is inside. The Blu-ray brings out the beauty of the food. You shouldn’t watch this film with an empty stomach. The bonus features include The Hundred-Foot Journey With Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey. “The Recipe, The Ingredients, The Journey” - Enter the enchanting world of the film on set with director Lasse Hallström, producer Juliet Blake, author Richard Morais, cast, crew, chefs and composer A.R. Rahman. “On Set With Oprah Winfrey” as she tours the Maison Mumbai and the “Hundred-Foot Journey” to the Le Saule Pleureur. Finally you can learn how to make Coconut Chicken with Chef Anil Sharma. Eat up!
Power Rangers Megaforce: Robo Knight Before Christmas is all the excitement you want for the holidays. Haven’t you had enough of Santa? Don’t you want to see how the Power Rangers celebrate the holiday? This has a fun twist as Robo Knight finds himself donated as a Christmas gift. But this isn’t merely an easy take of a secret Santa gone wrong. Robo Knight is being shipped to Africa. It’s up to Robo Knight to give the holiday spirit to a strange land. He also might need to come home. The DVD had a digital copy included. There’s also two other episodes: “Team Carnival” from Power Rangers Wild Force and “The Spirit of Kindness” from Power Rangers Jungle Fury.
The Jeffersons: The Complete Series - The Deee-luxe Edition brings together all 11 seasons that made George and Weezie live in the sky. The show was a spin-off of All In the Family since George was Archie’s neighbor for several episodes. Even though the two guys had the same dream of making it in America, George really did make it when his dry cleaning business became a major chain. He was able to afford to move out of Queens, cross the bridge and arrive in prime Manhattan. He was a success story, but his story didn’t end with signing the lease. His tale was just beginning as he had a whole lot of new problems. The biggest was how to deal with Mr. Bentley. Why wouldn’t George want to walk on the back of an Englishman? The show proved able to handle issues of race, class and economics while still making people laugh. The first episode is a carefully constructed tale about how the Jeffersons are now different from where they came from. Weezie befriends a maid working in the building. However she hasn’t the heart to tell the maid that she’s also not hired help. What happens when Weezie is told by George to hire a maid is a bit sad and rather hysterical. Yet they also have just good goofy sitcom episodes. The Jeffersons proved that no matter how high you get in a building, you can still have first floor problems. The bonus features include the “original” pilot which was an episode of All In the Family when the Jeffersons made the big move. There’s also an interview with creator Norman Lear about the series. He’s still wearing his goofy hat. There’s the spin-off series featuring Florence the Maid with Larry Linville from M*A*S*H*. Finally there’s the first two episodes of the sitcom E/R that had George Jefferson hanging around the waiting room. This is a great boxset for people who are ready to move on up to a deee-luxe apartment in the sky.
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