Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection

Introducing a 9-film Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Blu-ray box set (SRP $148.95), a 9-film Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection DVD box set (SRP $74.92) and a new A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition (SRP $34.99). The new Blu-ray of A Clockwork Orange will be a 2-disc release including the new 25-minute Turning Like Clockwork documentary about the film’s “Ultra-violence” and its cultural impact and the Malcolm McDowell Looks Back featurette in which Malcolm McDowell reminiscences on closely working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick. It’ll also include the Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures and O Lucky Malcolm! documentaries, and will come packaged in a Blu-ray Book with rare photos, production notes and more. The Stanley

Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Blu-ray box set will include the A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition, along with new Blu-rays of Lolita and Barry Lyndon [These will initially ONLY be available in the Limited Edition Collection]and the previous Blu-ray editions of Spartacus (via Universal), Dr. Strangelove (via Sony), 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. It will come in a 40-page, hardcover book-style package. The same 9 films will also be available on DVD, with a slipcase and a 40-page softcover version of the book – that’s the Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection DVD set. So the good news is that you get 2 new films on Blu-ray, a new special edition of A Clockwork Orange (which includes Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures) and the book. The only real bad news is there’s no new extras on the other films, including 2001. And the fact that they’re probably the same Blu-rays (and DVDs) as previously released means a lot of duplication for serious Kubrick fans who may already own them. One added note: For those of you who’ve heard the news about Douglas Trumbull’s (currently cancelled) plans for a new documentary on the making of 2001, as well as potential deleted footage, we should point out that 2013 is the film’s 45th anniversary. So it’s always possible some of that content might emerge then.

We’ve confirmed that Disc Two of the A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary Edition BD is also a Blu-ray, and the new O Lucky Malcolm! documentary is included in full HD. The Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures documentary is included on this disc as well, but in SD resolution (as originally produced). Also, be aware that for the time being the Lolita and Barry Lyndon Blu-rays will ONLY be available in the Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection Blu-ray set (though realistically, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them released individually in time for the holidays or early next year). Meanwhile, here’s a look at the packaging for the BD box and A Clockwork Orange…

Review – Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

I’ve been a big fan of the Parrot AR.Drone since it was first released in early 2010. Although it’s not a real drone as we define it (capable of autonomy) since it doesn’t have GPS or a navigation function, it is a remarkable piece of engineering and I think of it as the “gateway drug” to real UAVs.

 

Indoors, the main advantage is the better camera and the pressure sensor means that it doesn’t bounce up when it flies over furniture, the way the sonar-only AR.Drone 1 did.

 

Outdoors, the advantages are more obvious. I flew it last weekend with the Bay Area crew (see post here) in some pretty stiff wind and we were all very impressed. Here are some quick observations:

  • You can now change the settings to allow altitude of up to about 100-120 feet. Parrot says the altitude is unlimited, but in practice I wasn’t able to get it any higher than that (perhaps because it won’t go further than its wifi range).
  • The main limiter on outdoor use in any direction is the wifi range. I was able to get it to fly about 100-150 feet away but then it lost the wifi connection. The good news is that when that happens, it just hovers in position until the connection is regained. So you just have to walk closer to it until it gives you control back.
  • Loiter (which uses the optical flow camera underneath the copter) was very good. Close to the ground it’s really locked in (the more unique objects underneath it that it can see, the better; regular grass and dirt doesn’t offer many unique features, so it will drift a bit over them), and the higher you go the less effective it is. But even at 100 ft in a stiff wind, it will only slowly drift from its loiter position, and it will stay within a few tens of meters for as much as a minute.
  • Wind-handling is as good as you can expect for a relatively small frame and low-powered motors. It keeps its stability in the wind well, but does require some pretty aggressive tilting to not be blown downwind.

Overall, I think the 2.0 version is a significant improvement. The new HD camera is the biggest win and the indoor altitude hold performance is much improved by the baro sensor. Outdoors, I think the advantages of the higher altitude option are not as great as they could be, due to the Wifi range limits, but it does widen its performance range somewhat.

 

For people who don’t already have a Parrot AR.Drone, the improvements in 2.0 definitely make it more attractive. If you’ve been waiting to get one, now’s the time. But if you’ve already got a 1.0, you may not find them quite enough to upgrade.

 

As before, the AR.Drone is really optimized for indoor use, and it’s hard to find a better platform for that, from stability to reliability and safety (relatively soft props and a foam protective ring). I think you’ll see more and more people using the basic frame for indoor automomy research with replacement controller boards.

 

Bottom line: it really is a beautiful bit of engineering and design and an inspiration to us all in terms of ease-of-use.

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

When I heard that people were saying there’s “too much Minions” in “Despicable Me 2 [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet],” I said, what?! There can never be too many minions. It’s all about the minions. The rest of the story is cute, too, but directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud wisely put the minions front and center in this sequel to 2010’s “Despicable Me,” and I love it.

In fact, there’s already a 2014 movie in the works called “Minions,” where the Minions once again take center stage as Gru is recruited by an organization to stop supervillain Scarlet Overkill and her husband from taking over the world. I’m already super excited about that one.

But back to “Despicable Me 2,” which finds retired supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) living happily with his three girls — Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher) — along with their trusty minions, and Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), who’s developing a line of jams and jellies for the family to sell.

One day, a mysterious woman named Lucy (Kristen Wiig) kidnaps Gru and takes him to the underwater headquarters of the Anti-Villain League, where director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) explains that a dangerous bioweapon called PX41 can turn living creatures into purple killing machines. The serum has been stolen by a supervillain whom they believe is hiding at the Paradise Mall.

Of course, Gru wants nothing to do with the mall, but the League wants him to work undercover there and figure out which shop owner has plans for world domination. Gru reluctantly agrees to pose as a cupcake baker, with Lucy his partner. The main suspect is the owner of a Mexican restaurant, Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), but Gru becomes distracted when Margo falls for Eduardo’s smooth-talking son, Antonio (Moises Arias).

But much of the movie revolves around Gru’s love life. First, his neighbor keeps trying to set him up with someone. He eventually goes on a date, but we learn that Gru has bad memories of being shunned and bullied as a kid, which is why he’s hesitant to get close to someone. Then Agnes (who surely gets the “most adorable animated child” award) keeps trying to get Gru to fall in love with Lucy, so she and her sisters will have a mother.

It’s difficult to create animated characters that have actual chemistry, but Gru and Lucy have it. And I love that it’s snappy banter between equals rather than a “damsel in distress” relationship. Excited to see where these two go in future “Despicable Me” movies.

But those adorable minions really steal the show with their antics. They’re just so cute, and they have a habit of breaking into song at a moment’s notice. Their version of the 1990s ballad “I Swear” is a highlight of the movie. At one point, they’re all kidnapped and end up on a tropical island, with “The Love Boat” theme playing in the background. Minions love to party and have fun!

The plot is simple and sweet, which is good because it lets the characters shine through. The movie also has a wonderful soundtrack that reminds me of “The Incredibles” spy-music soundtrack, and includes some really fun tunes by Pharrell Williams, including the upbeat “Happy.” Check out the lyric video on the Reel Life With Jane site.

The beauty of the “Despicable Me” movies is that they combine the action and intrigue of spy movies with the joy of being part of a family. Gru may never leave his life of action behind, but first and foremost, he’s a doting father to those three adorable girls. He will do anything for his kids, whether it’s being there for Margo when a teenage boy breaks her heart or hugging Agnes when she has trouble reciting a poem about mothers. Gru is a true super dad who will always be there for his kids.

“Despicable Me 2” is truly the perfect family movie.

Review – Bosch 11258VSR 4.8 amp 5/8-Inch SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer Drill

Bosch 11258VSR 4.8 amp 5/8-Inch SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer Drill

The New Bosch 11258VSR is a dual mode, drilling with hammer and rotary only mode, SDS-plus drill with a 4.8 Amp high-torque motor and powerful impact mechanism, having an overload clutch to protect the user and reverse makes this a very versatile drill for plumbers and electricians. Also, this tools features a Compact Design at 11.8″ in length and 4.6 lbs in weight, the tool is perfect for drilling applications in hard to reach spaces or overhead, Variable speed trigger for accurate bit starting, as well as removing fasteners or bound bits, and 360° auxiliary handle with built-in quick release depth gauge.

I’ve researched hammer drills to use for the remodelling of a bathroom in my home. After some serious thought and a lot of comparison (to other hammer drills from other manufacturer’s) I settled on this Bosch hammer drill. As I intended, I used this drill to break up a tile floor which was done quickly and with little effort. After I had the tile up I was surprised to find that the tile was set in a light cement or mortar which was about 2 inches thick. I put this drill to work again and with a 1 1/2 inch chisel bit and I began to bust out the cement. Once again, the job was done quickly with little effort. I used this drill and that bit for a few other things, during my project, and it always worked out better than expected.

I have already recommended this drill to two friends who are tackling their own remodelling work and I recommend this particular drill to anybody who needs a hammer drill with good power. This is one of the best tools in my arsenal!

Book Review – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

I can’t recall many astronauts being entwined within popular culture. Yuri Gagarin obviously was the first but he sadly died seven years later; Neil Armstrong is probably the most famous but he shied away from the media frenzy and Buzz Aldrin gave his name to Buzz Lightyear and appeared on The SimpsonsFuturama,Transformers and Mass Effect 3 so possibly he gave it a friendly hug rather than fully embracing it.

Chris has (whether intentionally or not) created perhaps the best self-help book ever.  By opening up his life to the world, he promotes positivity throughout the (just under) 300 pages that you cannot help but admire.  As a 9 year old boy Chris decided he wanted to be an astronaut and so everything that he studied/read/completed from that point was directed towards the day when Canada would seek astronauts; he was extremely driven.  He sought and thanked anyone that would part with information or knowledge to help him achieve his goal, he had no worries about getting his hands dirty too as no job was to small or below him and he strived to reach higher, though remembering what is important i.e. family, friends & colleagues.  His love for his wife Helene and his children is clear, I believe also that it if wasn’t for his wife Chris possibly would still be a test pilot as she helped push him that little bit further by reminding him of what he wanted, and keeping his head pointing forward when moments seemed bleak.

You can easily see that within these pages is the strong feeling that Chris deplores negativity. Even the smallest of jokes that take a bite out of somebodies character, he won’t crack them. To Chris I believe he sees the spiritual figure of what not only an astronaut, but a human being should be is one that deserves respect and at the same time gives it to others.  Now as a cynical person like myself I shouldn’t be a fan of Cmdr. Chris Hadfield, as people like him generally make me teeth itch as I try to see what skeletons they are hiding behind that smile; here though I have nothing but respect and admiration for this man. I honestly feel that if every person on this planet was a clone of Chris Hadfield we’d be known as, “The Most Driven Planet in the Galaxy” as we arrive at alien worlds, become good friends with said aliens, fix their toilet and build them a hyper drive; they’d probably also question, “Why do they always smile?”

 

Chris has me shown me how humble a person can be and how they can achieve so much at the same time, though you can only achieve if you put the work in (even if you don’t get to play Rocket Man with Elton John).

Book Review – The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

STORYLINE:  Robert Langdon, distinguished symbologist is called to a crime scene while in Paris. The murder of the curator of the Louvre plunges Langdon into a game of cat-and-mouse with an unknown enemy intent on finding out the location of the Holy Grail and keeping all the related history and secrets buried forever.
PLAYERS: 
Robert Langdon – is puzzled by the code the curator wants him to unravel when he scrawls Langdon’s name in his final moments. Langdon has to prove himself worthy of the task set before him, even as his mental and professional skills are tested and his life is in danger.

Sophia Neveu
– is granddaughter to the slain curator and a cryptologist by profession. Her knowledge and skills are critical when she joins forces with Langdon to uncover the clues that have been kept secret for thousands of years by the Priory of Sion.
I LIKED: the way in which the book was structured. The chapters were short and the writer kept the story moving forward through the eyes and action of different characters.  Brown is an amazing writer to cram so much activity into the time span of a day.
Then there was information about codes that are supposedly in Leonardo Da Vinci’s art, so now I’ll be occupied poring over all I can find on the internet.
I also enjoyed the understated romance between the two main characters and found it refreshing. The little hints were there, so when it was clear Langdon/Neveu liked each other it wasn’t a surprize.
I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT: the length of the book. While the pacing of the story was good, the relentless chase tired me out. By the time the mastermind behind the murders was caught, I was ready for the end of the story. However, the business of locating the secret documents still had to be completed, as well as restoring Sophia’s family to her and wrapping up the romance.
OVERALL COMMENTS: I like a fast paced story and a plotline that keeps me reading. I found both in The Da Vinci Code. I also enjoyed all the historical details about the ‘sacred feminine’ and how pagan symbols were incorporated into religion that has filtered down to us today. Some of the ciphering slowed me down, but I won’t complain. I learned much about pagan symbols, as well as the original meaning/s of words we use today.  I noted the deep involvement of Opus Dei – a Catholic organization – in the plot. I remember that there was quite a brouhaha surrounding the material in the book.  I took The Da Vinci Code for what it is – fiction, with a more-than-generous –helping of research. However, I am fully aware that many of the details are the genuine article.

Canada Goose Resolute Parka

One of the reasons this is a fashion item is that it’s a) expensive and b) used by lots of famous people. I’ll skip listing all the Hollywood nitwits that wear Canada Goose jackets when it’s fifty degrees out and refer you to the most famous Resolute wearer of all: Lance Mackey, Alaska’s Iditarod hero. Lance is sponsored by Canada Goose so if you see him mushing you’ll see him in a black Resolute parka. Now, it’s pretty cold in Alaska and I refer you back to the problem of “standing around.” You’d think that traveling overland for 1,000 miles would create some body heat but mushers are in large part standing on the rails of their sleds, getting cold. OK, so there’s more to it than that, but rest assured that to mush the Iditarod, you need warm clothing. And Lance uses the Resolute parka. That’s all you need to know.

But my job requires that I tell you more than that, so keep reading. The features of this parka are not for fashion. It’s all function, baby. There are several grab straps on the shoulders and back that are designed for rescuers to use to hoist the unlucky wearer out of water or a crevasse. Mesh pockets line the inside of the parka and on the off chance the purchaser couldn’t figure out what they were for, they come helpfully stocked with chemical warmers. The ruff of the hood is lined with coyote fur, and I’m sure there is some bitching and complaining about that and I’m not a fur-for-fashion supporter either; but if you’re in actual arctic conditions you’ll be glad to have it. Nothing keeps the warm air in and prevents frosting like real fur, so that’s what CG uses.

The parka is nice and long, almost to knees, to keep in as much heat as possible while allowing freedom of movement. The size Small fits me just fine and, though it’s by necessity a bulky piece, allows me to move around relatively comfortably. I have my doubts as to whether or not the parka is actually designed for a women’s body; it’s just too hard to tell with a pice this bulky so I guess it doesn’t matter. It fits fine, so there you go. It seems maybe a little longer than the men’s version but that could be just because I’m short. The Antarctic Geargal reports that she was able to hike around without getting too overheated even though there are no pit zips (because that would be stupid on an Arctic parka) and that the hooks located all over the jacket are useful for carrying things and clipping your mittens to the parka so they don’t get blown away. I liked the ID sleeve on the chest and the many fleecy pockets. I’m not wild about the velcro used on pretty much all the flaps, but I realize that its par for the course these days and that it’s probably better than snaps for cold conditions.

Our Resolute has had a lot of use in some pretty cold parts of the world, and it’s held up well. We have the red color so it can get dirty if you, say, crawl around in BIRD NESTS in it, but even after that debacle there are no scuffs, wear marks, or damage of any kind. The seams stay nice and tight and the burly zipper shows no sign of tweaking. If you’re using this coat as it’s intended, you really can’t afford to have the main zipper go bust, so it’s good to see a top quality zipper holding it all together.

I don’t think you could find a better piece for extreme cold. It’s not light, it’s not cute, it doesn’t flatter your figure – but it ensures that you’ll live another night when you really need to.