Archive for the 'MOVIES' Category

DVD-to-Zune conversion…

Personally, I find the “convert my DVD to a portable format” quest to be an aggravating one.  I own a number of DVDs, and I would like to have those movies — that I own — on my Zune with me.  It seems that this is a borderline “sketchy” thing to do.  Why?  Well, you first have get around the DVD copy protection, then extract the DVD content, and finally convert it to a format you can use.

We can thank the movie industry for this hassle, I suppose?!

In my case — and to add further aggravation to the mix — my previous Zune 30gig would then re-convert whatever file I would make.  In other words, it supported *very* particular file types, resolutions, audio codecs, and video codecs.  The Zune software supported a wide variety of video files, mind you, but the Zune 30 had to have just-the-right thing.  The result?  Another hour+ conversion to get the video file onto the Zune *after* you’ve already converted it!  ARGGGGHHH!  I should add here that the Zune 80 is much more forgiving in this regard, and does not *need* to re-convert the video file, in most cases.

Anyhoo… I found a *very* handy application from Cucusoft called the “DVD to Zune Converter“.  At $29.95 — and even a bit cheaper if purchased on Ebay — this application made a pain-in-the-rear process a whole lot easier!  Here’s what you do…

  • Launch the software and hit the ‘Open’ button
  • Choose my DVD drive (where my movie disc is located), and it instantly fast-forwards to the beginning of the movie.  Nice! 
  • From the ‘Settings’ menu, choose ‘Profile Settings’ to configure the output format
  • From the drop-down menu, choose ‘Zune Video – Windows Media 9’
  • The default video size is 320×240 — what the Zune display can show — but you can choose up to 640×480 for higher resolution if connecting to a TV later on
  • The default audio bitrate is 96kbps, but 128kbps is even better
  • Close the ‘Profile Settings’ box
  • Click the ‘Convert’ button to start converting the DVD to a .WMV file

The Cucusoft program does things a bit differently than others, as far as I can tell.  Rather than performing a file-level conversion, the Cucusoft app appears to actually play the DVD, and then record the output.  Sounds wonky, but it honestly still looks very, very good. 

The process is this: It will fast-forward through a section of the movie, pause, “encode” that portion to your video file, and then proceed on with the movie, repeating the same process.  Depending upon your computer speed, you can actually rip movies faster than the movie length.  On my older, slower home computer — a P4 3.0ghz system with 2gigs of RAM — I can rip to a 320×240 .WMV file at about 1:1 ratio.  That is, a 2 hour movie takes about 2 hours to encode to a video file.  The faster machines I have at work make much better time, with a 640×480 movie taking about 4 hours for a 2 hour movie.  File sizes are reasonable, with a 2 hour movie at 640×480 encoding to a (roughly) 800mb file.  Not too bad.

Here’s another great thing: if you choose the Windows Media 9 option (above), then the Zune software DOES NOT need to re-convert the file when you sync up your Zune 30 (or Zune 80, for that matter).  It copies the file over and you’re ready to go!  The 320×240 size is not tremendous on any device, but it really looks pretty good.  Encoding at 640×480 looks better on the Zune (and on TV output), but means a longer encoding process *and* bigger files.  Your choice.

Lastly, I’ve done a bit of messing around with the other formats that the Cucusoft program will encode to.  It supports H.264 and MPEG-4 in addition to the (preferred) .WMV format.  With this software, however, I’ve found that the Windows Media 9 option provides the best quality video, though a bit slower than other options.

Anyhow, I give the DVD-to-Zune Converter software from Cucusoft a hearty 9 out of 10 stars.  Go check it out for yourself!



Quick Movie Review: Iron Man

I confess: I didn’t know much about the Iron Man legacy before heading out with my buddies to see the movie yesterday.  In fact, you could argue that I *still* don’t know much about it, but the movie looked good and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with some friends (in a dark, packed theater, no less) and see this newest superhero flick.  With movie theater prices as they are these days, sometimes you get out of a showing and feel a bit swindled: $9.25 for a ticket, $6.50 for popcorn, $3.75 for a drink, and $2.25 for a box of candy that costs $.79 everywhere else.  Almost $22 later, you’re wishing you’d purchased a DVD of a movie you *actually* enjoy!  I didn’t get any food yesterday, but you get the point.  In this case, the price of admission was well worth it.  Honestly.

Let’s see now… explosive action?  Check.  Engaging storyline?  Check.  Impressive leading actor?  Check.  Pretty damsel?  Check.  Great special effects?  Check.  In fact, in my personal opinion Iron Man is the best superhero flick to come out in quite awhile.  It grabs your interest, holds it, and leaves you desiring more.  (Note: there WILL be more.  Stay until the end of the credits for a next-chapter-in-the-series teaser.)  I would easily place this movie up there with the first Spiderman and X-Men movies.  Really good stuff.

  • My take: 9 out of 10

Get out and see this one!

Quick Movie Review: Juno

So the wife and I spent some quality time in front of the ol’ TV last night.  Our viewing preference?  The Oscar-nominated movie, Juno.  You know what?  It was pretty good.  “Good”, mind you — not great.  We laughed quite a bit and generally enjoyed a few of the characters in the film.  Was it Oscar-worthy?  Not in my opinion.  I also take exception to the PG-13 rating of this movie.  Call me a prude (really… go ahead… call me a prude… I *dare* you!), but this movie definitely has some “adult themes” that 13-year-olds should not be subjected to, in my opinion.  It’s really up to you, though.  Just my $.02.

Anyhow, the movie Juno has a quirky, Napoleon-Dynamite-esque humor to it.  Dry humor, wacky songs, and a low-budget feel to the whole production.  They pull it off well enough, though.  The movie moves along at a decent clip and the characters are all likable enough.  The end of the movie (without giving anything away) took a slight turn that I didn’t necessarily see coming.  ‘Twas alright, though.

  • My take:  7 out of 10

As always, your mileage may vary.

How To Cook Admiral Ackbar

My 10-year-old son found a page of amusing (and deleted) Wikipedia edits. This entry was *most* certainly among the most humorous.

(With all due respect to Star Wars, George Lucas, and fans, of course…)


It is not easy to trick Ackbar into getting into a big boiling pot, but it is possible. You need to inform him that we are simply checking out your “new jacuzzi”. If he proclaims, “It’s a trap!”, then you know that it is time he be “tenderized”. Inform him that putting butter and carrots into his hot tub is, not because you are trying to eat him, but to exfoliate his outer lobster shell. As with many meals, boiled potatoes alway compliment the flavor.


  • 25 gallons broth (your choice)
  • 1 Admiral Ackbar
  • 150 mini carrots
  • 50 red potatoes
  • 20 sticks of Lando Lakes Butter
  • 10 cups Blue Milk


  • 1) Bring your broth to a boil
  • 2) Add 1 Admiral Ackbar
  • 3) Once the Ackbar appears to be tasty, add in the carrots, potatoes, Blue Milk with a dash of salt and pepper
  • 4) Let cool for 30 minutes before serving

So awesome. 🙂

Ahhh… product tie-ins

Made a quick stop at the local Shell station this morning.  As always, gas stations have a pretty sweet selection of random and (seemingly) useless stuff.  Case in point, the “Corpse Bride” Peppermints in a very nice tin.

A very sensible product tie-in, if I’ve ever seen one.  And won’t your friends be jealous…