Jul 5 2016

Breakthrough!

Adel Gabot

plex-for-apple-tv-4

6:32AM

I’ve long wondered why my many TV shows refuse to show up in the Plex Media Server menu of the Apple TV app on my flatscreen TV. None of them ever showed up on the screen, but all my movies do.

It’s damned mysterious.

It’s been like that ever since I began using Plex Media Server on my Mac and the PS3 years ago. The problem has prevailed through the PS4, the 3rd gen Apple TV, and now on the 4th generation ATV. Never could figure it out, and have been suffering the problem all this time.

But I’ve had a breakthrough. A bolt of lightning from a clear sky.

It just occurred to me last night that they weren’t showing up because the TV shows were buried deep in a nest of organized folders. Plex couldn’t see them!

So to test my theory I tried dragging a folder up to the second level and checked the menu on my TV—and the shows all showed up!

Apparently, one of the shortcomings of Plex Media Server is that it cannot see any content past the third nested folder level. If the shows were on the fourth level or deeper, they might as well be invisible as far as Plex was concerned. That’s why they weren’t appearing on the on-screen menus.

My problem was that I was organized to a fault.

I meticulously deposit the video files in complicated nests of organized folders. As in, as an example, in descending order of folders starting with TV on the top level, then New Episodes, then Completed Seasons, then Marvel-Netflix, then Daredevil and finally Season Two. Then, and only then, you get to the actual files of Daredevil Season Two.

That’s six levels of nested folders before you get to the actual files.

Plex, in its infinite wisdom, only sees files up to the third folder in the hierarchy. The files were in the sixth level!

Now why would such short-sighted programming be in a modern, top-tier app like Plex?

Damn it.

So I spent some time reorganizing the TV shows to only three levels of folders at most, then re-directed the Plex app to find them there. I did this for a couple of other media formats that were suffering from the nested-folder problem also, and now they all work. My menus were suddenly all filled out!

Now if only Plex would helpfully sort out the files on the TV.

Sometimes I think I ask too much of my apps.

 


Jun 30 2016

Changing my mind: A quick review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

Adel Gabot

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12:36PM

Ok, ok, I’m not really changing my mind: I still dislike Zack Snyder’s superhero epic, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

But I’ll say this—I dislike it a whole lot less now, with the release of the Ultimate Edition. In fact, I might even say I tolerate it now, and kinda sorta admire it a bit.

Just a bit.

The extended version puts back a lot of material Snyder decided to cut in the theatrical version, so as to keep the movie at a palatable length. As it is now, the movie has an additional 30 minutes restored or added, putting it at a staggering 3 hours and 2 mins long.

The original cut had cut a lot of the scenes a bit short in the interest of time, and consequently shortchanged character arcs and plot developments, and introduced seemingly glaring plot holes, particularly if you weren’t very familiar with the superheroes’ histories.

The Ultimate Edition takes the time to fill out these arcs and plot developments, and adds a bit more material to make the movie a largely better film. And also, a bit more bloody action for those of us looking for it. And a bit of skin. And some swearing.

Although a lot of stuff that was restored is, frankly, largely unnecessary. The film remains basically the same thing you saw in the theaters, only with way more exposition, a bit more character development and more R-rated material. As such, the movie makes better sense now, and is more suited to an adult audience (that is, if an adult audience can actiully sit through it).

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My main reason for catching the Ultimate Edition is to see the Jena Malone part that was left on the cutting room floor. Rumors put it that she was either Batgirl or Robin or some other major role like that, but it turns out it was just a cameo, essentially. Malone played a lab tech named Jenet Klyburn who examines Lois Lane’s magic bullet and discovers it was made by Lexcorp, and appears in just two short scenes. So much for internet hype.

The new version, among other things, shows us how long Lex Luthor has been patiently manipulating the main characters, and gives us an idea of how intricate and thought-through his plan was. That’s one wily bugger.

There are also quick, additional tweaks to some of the characters, like some nice, friendly banter between Batman and Martha Kent (“I’m a friend of your son.” “I figured.”) , more screen time for Alfred and extended scenes between Lois Lane and Perry White. Also, there is a nice extended bathtub romance scene between Clark Kent and Lois that had them show a bit more skin.

I just find it a bit curious that Harry Dean Morgan, who plays Thomas Wayne, remains uncredited in this version too. Also curious (in both versions) is the fact that Jimmy Olsen is a CIA operative now, but gets a bullet in the head early on in the film. Great way to treat a beloved supporting character. So much for that storyline.

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I still feel, like I did with the original version, that Snyder tries to cram in too much material in the movie, especially so now with the extended version. For instance, having Luthor cook up an alien baddie for Bats and Supie (and Wonder Woman) to deal with together after their little spat seems a bit much and feels like it should be in another movie entirely.

But that’s just me, folks.

However you felt about the theatrical version and the DC Cinematic Universe, this new ultimate version on Bluray and DVD is certainly a much better movie than the first one, even if it is a little bit long.

7 out of 10 stars.


Jun 25 2016

A quick review of The Wave

Adel Gabot

The_Wave_(2015_film)

7:27AM

This Norwegian big-budget film from last year is actually decent.

I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it has heaps of Hollywood cliches, but the stunning cinematography, excellent score, believable effects and decent acting made for a very absorbing couple of hours. Normally, I’m not accustomed to watching subtitled foreign disaster movies, but The Wave (Bolgen in the original Norwegian) is a pretty damn decent film.

You don’t usually associate pleasant mountain ranges with tsunamis, but that’s the main conceit of this film. It’s set in an idyllic, tourist-friendly Norwegian fjord called Gerainger up in the mountain pass of Akneset, where we meet geologist Kristian Elkjord (played by Kristoffer Joner, who looks like a rich man’s version of a comfortably rumpled Norman Reedus) and his family.

Kristian works for the government monitoring the geologic goings-on in the area, but has recently been hired by a private oil company out of town and is in the process of moving out to the city with his family and leave all this behind. On his last day at work, he discovers some curious geologic activity that tells him something disastrous is about to happen, but he can’t really do anything about it since he doesn’t work there anymore.

And that disaster does happen. That evening, a gigantic landslide happens happens high up in the mountains, and sends the waters of the fjord rushing towards Gerainger in an 80-meter tsunami. The entire community, including a nice hotel where Kristian’s wife incidentally works, is wiped out, and those who aren’t quick enough to get to higher ground are goners.

You’d be totally horrified by the terrible spectacle of an entire mountainside crumbling and falling into the waters below and sending a gargantuan wave into town if the effects weren’t so pretty at the same time. The scenes of a peaceful mountain range ruined by a huge, roiling wall of water rushing down below is, in a word, spectacular.

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This catastrophe happens about two-thirds of the way into the movie, which is kind of surprising: the big event happens a bit early! In a disaster film, that’s unheard of!

The first two-thirds of the film were setup and preamble to this event, and the final third is the story of how Kristian and his family survive that event—which should be anticlimactic and much too prolonged for it to work at all, but remember, we aren’t watching a typical Hollywood disaster movie. It does work, and all for the better.

Sure, it gets pretty melodramatic towards the end (and I’m not about to spoil it for you, dear reader), but on the whole, it works for the film. I won’t go into specifics, but I don’t know if it’s the culture or the fact that it’s a tsunami happening high up in the mountains of Norway or what, but whatever it is, it works.

Assuming you don’t speak Norwegian, if you’re not beneath taking the trouble to read the English subtitles, I think you’re going to be pretty entertained by The Wave.

7 out of 10 stars.


Jun 24 2016

My very first DVD

Adel Gabot

Spawn-az-ivadek--dvd-4874

8:15AM

Blast from the past: yesterday I got another copy of the very first original DVD I ever owned—Spawn.

Oh, I know it’s not anything earth-shattering or auspicious. And it’s not a particularly good movie, not by any means. But it was my first movie in the (what was then) new format, and it holds great sentimental value for me.

Back then when DVDs were still new (and very expensive), they weren’t readily available in my country. Bootleg discs were still a few years away. All of the titles being sold were original American R1s, and were all over the map as far as movie types were concerned. We bought what we could get.

The player I got (which was big and bulky), as far as I can recall, was one of the early Sony models, which I paid a pretty penny for. Back then (as I still am now) I was already an early adopter, and I had to have the latest and the greatest. If I knew then what I know now (that we’d have hi-res files of these movies just streaming to our TVs and desktops, and that the disc format’s days have come and gone) I wouldn’t have tried too hard to be an early adopter.

But back then, playing a DVD was a wondrous experience. Coming from the bigger and buggier laserdisc technology (which I also had a ton of), it was a singular experience to have such hi-fi output to come from such a little thing. I marveled at the high resolution video and audio fidelity of Michael Jai White being burned to a crisp by an evil Martin Sheen. Hey, it’s Spawn; what do you expect?

That disc began a long run of many satisfying hours watching movies, both good and bad, on DVDs, until I migrated to Blurays and streamed video. Watching it now, I’m transported back to the good old days.

I have no idea where it is now, that disc, but wherever it is, I hope it found a good home.

Wala lang, just reminiscing.


Jun 2 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane: A short review

Adel Gabot

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1:15PM

Look. I know.

I’m late to the game. Most of you have probably seen it in the theaters months ago and have your own opinions about it. But curiously I hadn’t seen it yet, until yesterday.

Since they finally released 10 Cloverfield Lane digitally and on physical media last weekend, I finally got a chance to catch it and see what the fuss was about. And the fuss was largely warranted, save for the ending which was kind of a letdown, at least for me.

We’ll get to that later. Don’t worry. On the off chance there are those reading this who haven’t seen the movie either, I won’t spoil it for you. Well, not much anyways.

This movie was under the radar during its production, and just suddenly popped out of seemingly nowhere, fully formed. This was a fact that worked well for the movie, as the audience didn’t know what the hell to expect. Even the trailers were cryptic and mysterious. All anyone needed to know was that J.J. Abrams was involved, and that was good enough for them.

By virtue of its title, it claimed a tenuous relationship with another movie called Cloverfield, a twitchcam captured footage movie which did reasonably well at the box office some years ago. And it does have some connection, though not directly. 10 Cloverfield Lane can stand alone, even if you never saw the other film.

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It’s an intimate and very tight movie, and featured just three main characters thoughout the entire film: John Goodman as doomsday prepper Howard, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the imprisoned bystander Michelle and John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett, the handyman who forces his way in the bunker with Howard (who he used to work for), when the shit hit the fan.

These three, by curious circumstance or the vagaries of fate, end up weathering out a world-ending catastrophe (or so Howard says; we never really know for sure until the final moments of the film) for weeks in an underground bunker in rural Louisiana. I won’t get into the details anymore, but suffice it to say this uncertainty (particularly for Michelle) fuels most of the movie, as we the audience don’t really know what’s happening to the world outside the bunker.

Acting chops, I got absolutely no complaints with. Goodman, Winstead and Gallagher all hold up their end pretty well. Particularly Goodman, who’s always excellent in anything he does. The tension between Howard and his two guests you can cut with a knife, and the unspoken back-and-forth between Michelle and Emmett spoke volumes. Subplots abound, as the complicated relationships among them make things very uncomfortable for our three protagonists in the cramped confines of the bunker.

A lot happens in the interim and I won’t spoil it for anyone, but when Michelle finally busts out of the bunker and sees what’s really happening outside, it was kinda a big letdown for me. For 10 Cloverfield Lane to suddenly take a left turn and become a run-of-the-mill science fiction movie and leave behind its taut, realistic, fatalistic storyline, I was pretty disappointed.

But then again, its the journey that counts, not necessarily the destination.

Two thumbs up!