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Movie of the Week: The Punisher


Film poster for The Punisher (2004 film)

My Movies Collection Number: 366

IMDB Synopsis: After his wife and family are killed, G-Man Frank Castle takes it upon himself to distribute punishment to those responsible for the vendetta. IMDB Link

Why it’s in my collection: One of the main reasons this movie is in my collection is that I am a big Marvel comic book fan and the OCD part of me wants to have every Marvel movie made since the original Blade

I also love the “Welcome Back, Frank” storyline that the movie uses as part of its basis.  Seeing some of the scenes from that story on screen just really made the Punisher fan in me really happy.

Thoughts While Watching: The bad guys in this movie are way over the top.  They are so cheesy and over the top it becomes funny.  Then you realize that John’s Travolta’s sons are played by the same actor and you know that you have to check any hopes of this being the Punisher movie you were hoping for.  And how can you be taken seriously as a mobster when your base of operations is Tampa, Florida???

As you watch this movie it feels like every decision made by first time director Jonathan Hensleigh was as an homage to 1980’s cop/action/crime movies.  The attempts at manipulating your emotions, the music, the coincidences used to advance the plot al make you say “seriously!”.

There are scenes taken directly from the comic book that I enjoyed seeing but overall the movie falls flat.  If I am going to see a movie this cheesy then I am going to watch Punisher: War Zone.  At least that movie has more of the character from the comic book and KNOWS what it is.  It does not try to put a serious face on a movie that should be fun silly action.   Of course I would love to see a real budget and a real director (like Michael Mann) make a Punisher movie.  That would be amazing.

Why it should be in your collection: The only reason this movie should be in your collection is if you have the same compulsive need as me to be complete.  I thought this movie was finally going to do the Punisher right but it made two crucial mistakes for me: taking Frank out of New York and not pitting him against the traditional mob.  John Travolta’s Howard Saint character is HORRIBLE.  I think Punisher War Zone is a better representation of the world and the character.

Similar movies from my collection: Face/Off, The Crow, Punisher: War Zone, Bad Boys, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Blade, Die Hard, Kill Bill Vol.1, The Boondock Saints

My Movies Collection Rating: 5

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Movie of the Week: Snatch


Image by yonmacklein via Flickr

My Movies Collection Number: 290

IMDB Synopsis: Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond. IMDB Page

Why it’s in my collection: I love Guy Ritchie’s crime movies.  There is something very cool about them to me.  My fascination with these kind of movies stated with Pulp Fiction and has been going strong since.

Thoughts While Watching: This movie has a great opening scene.  It’s very unique and pretty funny too.  It sets the tone for the movie with the quick cuts and in your face soundtrack.

This was the first movie I saw by Guy Ritchie and my first introduction to Jason Statham.  I quickly become fans of both and went looking for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

When I first saw this movie I thought Brad Pitt was a little out of place but I could not have been more wrong.  His performance is awesome and hilarious.  His introduction scene ended with a “holy $hit” moment.

I remember the first time I saw this movie I had to watch closely to keep up with all the characters and the accents.

Why it should be in your collection: This movie is just fun.  The story in the movie comes together nicely in the end and almost begs to be watched again to pick up on all the details, overlapping story lines and character connections and interactions.  Brad Pitt also gives an amazing performance that is unforgettable.

Similar movies from my collection: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, RockNRolla, In Bruges, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects

My Movies Collection Rating:  8

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New Posts: Movie of the Week

The whole purpose of Media Center in my household is for it to allow for new and better ways for me and my family to enjoy our content.  That content can be movies, TV, music, photos or even a combination of a few. 

Taking that into account I wanted to start writing more about the content that Media Center has allowed me to organize under one digital roof.  Starting out I am going to be writing about movies since I love watching and collecting.  Specifically one movie a week out of my movie collection.  I will be using Random.org to randomly pick a number and then use that number to determine which movie I will watch.

Here is the template I will be using:

My Movies collection number: The random number spit out by the random number generator.

IMDB Synopsis: What IMDB says the movie is about.

Why it’s in my collection: A brief explanation on why I have the movie as part of my collection.

Thoughts While Watching: I will be writing thoughts while I watch / re-watch the movie of the week.

Why it should be in your collection: My conclusion and wrap-up.

Similar movies from my collection: I will be leveraging the similar movies functionality to list a few of the movies from my collection that are considered similar by My Movies.

My Movies Collection Rating: The rating that is assigned to this movie in my collection based on the 1-10 rating used by My Movies.

The first movie of the week will be posted shortly after this post.

Media Center Studio released for Windows 7

One of my favorite utilities for Windows Vista Media Center is Menu Mender.  It is a very intuitive and easy tool that allows you to customize the menu strips in Media Center.  The changes to the underlying architecture of Windows 7 did not allow Menu Mender to work with Windows 7 but as of yesterday not only is there an update but there is a whole new version of the application named Media Center Studio.

If you are familiar with Menu Mender then you will be instantly familiar with Media Center Studio.  There is some additional functionality like the ability to apply themes to the Media Center UI.  You can still turn strips on/off, rename strip menu items and move them around. 

The only restrictions is that native menu items (think “recorded tv”, “movie guide”, “music”) can only be moved to native strips and not custom strips.  Over on the Green Button there is another application that is out (but set to receive an update at any moment) that will allow you to move native apps to custom strips.

After trying out Media Center Studio I may end up using both applications.  I really want the “movie guide” from the native “Movies” strip to be moved onto my custom movie strip with MediaBrowser and OML and mikinho app from the Green Button seems like it will let me do that but I still like the simplicity of Media Center Studio.  Try them out and let me know what you think.  Remember these are both Beta software releases.

How I Get My DVDs Into Media Center

I have had a few questions about ripping DVD’s and the best format to use.  The answer to that question really depends on what you want as the end product.  For me, I wanted a copy of the movie that had the same visual and audio quality as if I were watching the movie directly from the DVD.  Also I wanted a process that was quick and easy.  The one drawback of my process is that it produces rather large files (about 4GB on average) because I do not re-encode the movie.  So with that caveat out of the way here is how I get one of my DVD’s into Media Center and my MediaBrowser library.

1) Rip the DVD with DVD Shrink 3.2

First I insert the DVD into my DVD drive.  Then I open DVD Shrink 3.2 and press the Open Disc button in the upper left.  The resulting dialog box already has my DVD Drive highlighted so I press “OK”.

DVDShrink 01

DVD Shrink then proceeds to analyze the DVD…

DVDShrink 02

… and the result looks like this:

DVDShrink 03

I only want the movie with the AC3 Dolby Digital audio track and nothing else so I choose the “Re-Author” option by pressing the button on the toolbar.  You then get the following screen with the main pieces separated out.

DVDShrink 04

Next just drag “Title 1” under main movie over to the left under DVD in the DVD Structure section.  To verify that you actually have the movie you can highlight Title 1 in the DVD Structure section and press the blue play button above the black box.  You should see something like this:

DVDShrink 05

Next click on the Compression Settings tab.  Here we can deselect all the audio and subtitle tracks that we do not want.  This avoids the end product having audio in a different language and also reduces file size by not keeping audio tracks that you do not need.  You should only have the AC3 5.1-ch English audio track selected like so:

DVDShrink 06

Before you actually kick of the DVD ripping process double check your settings under “Edit > Preferences”.  On the first tab you should have DVD-9 selected in the target DVD size drop down box and uncheck “Split VOB files into 1GB chunks” under the Output Files tab.

DVDShrink 07a DVDShrink 07b

Next click on the “Backup!” button in the toolbar.  Change your backup target to “Hard Disk Folder”, select an output folder (click on the folder icon for a suggestion) and uncheck the “Create VIDEO_TS and AUDIO_TS subfolders” option.  Then press OK and the Encoding dialog box will pop up.

DVDShrink 08 DVDShrink 09

Wait for the encoding to be done and the DVD is ripped to a single VOB with full DVD video quality and the AC3 5.1-ch sound.  You are done wit DVD Shrink.  The encoding time will depending on the hardware you are using and the system resources available at the time.  I was actually recording an HD show at the same time as ripping the DVD for this post.

2) Convert VOB to DVR-MS with VideoRedo

I chose early on in my Media Center journey to try and work with the native file formats as much as possible and bypass any on the fly transcoding.  The main reasons for this were ease of use for the family and consistency of experience (i.e. all my video files have the same FW/RW experience regardless if it’s ripped or recorded TV).

I use VideoRedo for the last step but I am sure there are other options.  This to me was the easiest.  Open VideoRedo and open the VOB file.

Then under the “Tools” menu choose “Quickstream Fix…”.  Change the “Output Stream” option to reflect the final directory and filename of the movie file.  In this case I want to put it in the movie folder of my home server so the “Output Stream” value is “\\server_name\movies\Memento\Memento.dvr-ms”.  Click on “Start Quick Fix”.  About 5-8 minutes later you are done.

VideoRedo 02

VideoRedo 03

3) Open up MediaBrowser and verify

Last thing I do is open up MediaBrowser and verify that the new movie was scanned and picked up.

MediaBrowser 01MediaBrowser 02

If you see any issues with the meta data that was automatically pulled by MediaBrowser you can use MetaBrowser to make corrections.

That’s it!  Any questions just shoot me an email or leave a comment.