The Dark Knight (***½)

Posted on July 26th, 2008 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

I am not a Batman fanboy.  I am usually bored and confused by films based on comic books (calling them “graphic novels” is the ultimate in geek denial).  If I recall correctly, I have enjoyed one, or maybe two, of the films in this franchise, but not to any great extent.  I couldn’t really pick Heath Ledger out of a lineup and don’t really recall anything he was in before his untimely passing.

I had also gotten tired of hearing all the hype about this installment, and about the amazing, Oscar-worthy performance by Heath Ledger.  I went in skeptical, to say the least. 

I walked out a believer.

Heath Ledger gives a miraculous performance as The Joker.  The character is completely original, although I kept expecting him to come across as Nicholson (either in The Shining or as The Joker) or as Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), but he didn’t.  Ledger’s Joker has to be seen to be believed.  His performance is absolutely worthy of an Oscar nod, and if I were a betting man I’d say he’ll end up winning.  He’s that good.

Most of the rest of the cast is solid, as well.  Michael Caine is dependable as Alfred, Maggie Gyllenhaal is a refreshing change from Mrs. Tom Cruiscientologist, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are spot on, and Aaron Eckhart gives a good performance as Harvey Dent.  And, believe it or not, Eric Roberts (yes, THAT Eric Roberts) gives a great performance in a smallish mobster role.  There’s even a pinch of gratuitous Anthony Michael Hall and a fleeting dash of Cillian Murphy.

The weak link in this installment is Christian Bale, unfortunately.  It’s not so much that he’s bad, it’s just that he’s…lukewarm.  Tepid.  Translucent.  As Bruce Wayne he’s simply boring, and as Batman they’ve really pumped up the bass on his growl, to the point where it’s distracting every time he talks through his bared, gritted teeth.  I think the problem with his performance is more directorial than thespian, but his character just doesn’t have the requisite impact for a near-superhero.

It was also distracting how clearly it was seen to be Chicago standing in for Gotham.  They even had a cop played by Ron Dean, who was one of the two Chicago cops in The Fugitive (and then again in Chain Reaction), which simply added to the Chicago-osity of the mood.

The story is, well, simply a Macguffin to get the pot stirred up.  The action is good, the fights are good, and the effects are good, with the exception of the motorcycle, which just doesn’t move realistically (even allowing for the suspension of disbelief necessary for this type of film). 

Also, the ending of the film seemed tacked on and/or cut down.  After all of the machinations of the film, at the very, very end, just before the credits roll, Batman volunteers to be falsely accused of crimes so that he can be hated by the public and pursued by the cops,

Late Show with David Letterman Introductions

Posted on July 25th, 2008 in Television by The Donkeys

Here you will find a very sporadic catalog of announcer Alan Kalter’s non-sensical and hilarious David Letterman intros:

Friday, 7/25/2008: And now… gateway to the Rockies… David Letterman!

Thursday, 7/24/2008: And now… creepy lighthouse keeper… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 7/23/2008: And now… crime-fighting barber… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 7/22/2008: And now… troubled X-ray technician… David Letterman!

Monday, 7/21/2008: And now… amiable drifter… David Letterman!

Friday, 7/18/2008: And now… broadcasting from the snow-topped peak of Kilimanjaro… David Letterman!

Thursday, 7/17/2008: And now… a guy we knew would never amount to anything… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 7/16/2008: And now… the number one name in pet food… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 7/15/2008: And now… satisfied DeLorean owner… David Letterman!

Monday, 7/14/2008: And now… a man who’s asking for your vote for county coroner… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 9/26/2007: And now… a man who answers to the name “Lucky”… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 9/25/2007: And now… muscular, scarred foundry worker… David Letterman!

Monday, 9/24/2007: And now… Marcel Marceu’s protege… David Letterman!

Friday, 9/14/2007: And now… New York’s crime-busting governor… David Letterman!

Thursday, 9/13/2007: And now… a man produced in a facility that processes nuts… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 9/12/2007: And now… elderly scam victim… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 9/11/2007: And now… a man who wants to withdraw his guilty plea… David Letterman!

Monday, 9/10/2007: And now… the latest must-have device from Apple… David Letterman!

Friday, 9/7/2007: And now… a man who left $12 million to his kittie… David Letterman!

Thursday, 9/6/2007: And now… the man who’s patrolled the sidelines in Happy Valley for 42 years… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 9/5/2007: And now… interim Idaho senator… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 9/4/2007: And now… a man whose presidential campaign has raised over 85 million dollars… David Letterman

Thursday, 8/31/2007: And now… pinch-hitting for John Smoltz… David Letterman!

Thursday, 8/30/2007: And now… disgraced Idaho senator… David Letterman!

Thursday, 8/23/2007: And now… pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles… David Letterman!

Friday, 3/3/2006: And now… mutated virus strain… David Letterman!

Thursday, 3/2/2006: And now… shown with optional touring package… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 3/1/2006: And now… the human equivalent of a dry persistent cough… David Letterman!

Friday, 2/24/2006: And now… Canadian Backyard Wrestling Spokesman… David Letterman!

Thursday, 8/4/2005: And now… the tri-state area’s favorite corpulent sportscaster… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 8/3/2005: And now… disoriented vaudevillian relic… David Letterman!

Friday, 7/29/2005: And now… good hygeine advocate… David Letterman!

Thursday, 6/30/2005: And now… author of the landmark book ‘Dianetics’… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 6/29/2005: And now… the perky blonde who’s the talk of women’s tennis… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 6/28/2005: And now… Japan’s number one television personality… David Letterman!

Monday, 6/27/2005: And now… price-fixing petroleum titan… David Letterman!

Friday, 6/24/2005: And now… vegetable rights activist… David Letterman!

Thursday, 6/23/2005: And now… lobbyist for Big Sugar… David Letterman!

Wednesday, 6/22/2005: And now… unlicensed daycare provider… David Letterman!

Tuesday, 6/21/2005: And now… leading economic indicator… David Letterman!

Monday, 6/20/2005: And now… a man with 6 megapixels… David Letterman!

Review of the Westinghouse 47″ LCD HDTV (TX-47F430S)

Posted on July 9th, 2008 in Product Reviews,Technology,Television by EngineerBoy

Westinghouse TX-47F430SJust over a year ago we purchased a Westinghouse 47″ LCD HDTV (Model TX-47F430S) from Best Buy.  This model is priced at the cheaper end of the spectrum, but it seemed to fit our requirements (reasonably good picture, reasonably cheap, from a trustworthy brand name).

The bottom line is that we love the picture and the features, but some of the fit, finish, and quality are lacking.  We expected this because of the lower price, and are happy (so far) with the price-performance compromise.

The Good
First, the good things.  The picture quality is excellent and sharp, and the highest resolution is 1080p, which is the highest HDTV standard resolution.  I’ve heard rumors that Westinghouse has changed to a different LCD panel for this same model number for the new sets being produced, and that the new panel isn’t quite as bright and sharp, but don’t know that for certain.

The connections are also great.  There are four HDMI connectors for HD content.  There is a PC monitor port which allows you to drive it has a super-high-resolution PC/server monitor, and also takes the sound output from the PC as well (great for PC gaming).  It has composite and component/S-video inputs as well.  You can get more technical specifications here.

We have several things hooked up to our TV, as follows:
Regular definition cable TV via TiVo: We get regular cable TV programming through a cable box, which feeds our dual-tuner TiVo, which feeds into one of the component inputs of the TV.  Movies that are broadcast in widescreen can be expanded to fill the entire screen and look really good (but not as good as true HDTV, of course).

HDTV via DirectTV: We also have DirectTV in order to get the NFL and other (selected) sports in HD.  DirectTV only goes up to 1080i, which is interlaced and not quite 1080p, but is still super sharp looking.

Computer: We have a computer hooked up which we can use with a wireless keyboard/trackball, allowing us to display anything PC-based on our television in very sharp resolution.

Wii Console: The Wii console is connected via the component interface and looks good, but not great.  This is a function of the Wii, however, not the television, as the Wii doesn’t support any native high-resolution formats nor HDTV, so it looks a little pixellated when scaled up on our 47″ TV, but still fun and playable.
Overall, the good is really good on this television.  But unfortunately it’s not all good…

The Not-So-Good
There have also been some annoyances with this set, as follows:

The Closed-Captioning simply does not work.  It gets a few of the words/text, but it’s very jumpy and misses random parts and just doesn’t work.  We rarely used captions, but sometimes it’s nice to have the news on with the sound down and the captions up, so that you can still read what’s going on without the noise intrustion, or when watching a quiet movie that you don’t