Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Batarang— Uncontrollably Cool

The Batarang Wireless Controller for PS3 is so authentic, you'll be tempted to throw it at the bad guys, but so amazing you won't want to ever let it go. This officially licensed Batman: Arkham City collectible comes packed with more features than a utility belt, including wireless receiver, built-in motion sensing technology and dual rumble motors for enhanced game play. Power A has a great track record for making 3rd party controllers. In fact, I’ve been using the “Pro Elite Wireless Controller” for over a year now with absolutely no complaints. I’m a much bigger fan of the Xbox 360 controller layout than I am of the PS3 Duel Shock’s, so the fact that the D-Pad and Left Analog stick have been reversed on this controller is a HUGE plus for all true gamers. That being said, I didn’t include this as a “Pro” or “Con” because it actually comes down to overall preference. 

On a personal level, this controller has it all and I highly recommend it. But moving right along here... another great aspect of the controller is how long it holds a charge. I’ve played for a few hours last night and a few more hours again today and the battery gauge hasn't moved at all. The less time charging, the more time playing. Win, win. The controller is called the Batarang after the infamous weapon that Batman uses. It's not your typical PS3 controller, it's styled more after an Xbox 360 controller in terms of the layout of the control sticks. The Batarang features seven different lighting effects so you can actually change the colors depending on the mood you're in or even the game you're playing. This is a nice feature if only for the psychologically calming effects certain colors tend to possess.

I would say the only glitch I can dig up is the placement of the buttons in the middle of the PS3 controller. They just seem too close together. There has been more than one time I’ve tried to hit start and ended up turning on the LED colors. The same can be said for trying to hit the select button and pressing the battery indicator light. This is just a minor detail which really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of game play but, we tend to be as detailed as possible.

If you’re looking for a new controller to replace your old PS3 Dual Shock, look no further than the Batarang Controller. It's stylish, cool and it adds a niced "varied" choice to your gaming experiences. And... as long as you don’t mind the reversed Analog and D-Pad you will not be disappointed.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

"War Horse" impressed Academy voters. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" left some in tears and others  simply overwhelmed. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" drew rare applause in the first five minutes, after its opening credits. According to reports from members in attendance, crowds were small at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Saturday and Sunday, where several of the year's big awards contenders screened for AMPAS members. The crucial screenings were Sunday's afternoon/evening double bill of Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", followed by Steven Spielberg's "War Horse." The former film, after being tightly embargoed for a couple of weeks, is now beginning to be reviewed— and its early reviews have been mixed, with Todd McCarthy saying "emotional fluency and literary pretense go hand in hand" and Gabe Toro at the Playlist called it "effective in short spurts." But others have found themselves deeply touched and completely moved by the film, which deals with the aftermath of 9/11— and the reaction was through-the-roof positive at the early screening I had attended, at which the audience was actually rather liberally sprinkled with both guild and Academy members. 

Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is a story that unfolds from inside the young mind of Oskar Schell, an inventive eleven year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in his deceased father’s belongings sets him off on an urgent search across the city for the lock it will open. A year after his father died in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls “The Worst Day,” he is determined to keep his vital connection to the man who playfully cajoled him into confronting his wildest fears. Now, as Oskar crosses the five New York boroughs in quest of the missing lock— encountering an eclectic assortment of people who are each survivors in their own way— he begins to uncover unseen links to the father he misses, to the mother who seems so far away from him and to the whole noisy, dangerous, discombobulating world around him.Three-time Academy Award® nominee Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot,” “The Reader,” “The Hours”) directed “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” from a screenplay by Academy Award® winner Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Insider”), based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel.

The film stars Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump,” “Philadelphia”) and Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) along with newcomer Thomas Horn in the role of Oskar, and was produced by Scott Rudin (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Social Network,” “True Grit”). Celia Costas, Mark Roybal and Nora Skinner served as executive producers, with Eli Bush and Tarik Karam as co-producers.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reflections on Casablanca

When we first meet Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), he is a self-centred businessman apparently out for himself and uninterested in others' lives or problems. He is not selfish, but he is very protective of his interests and is unwilling to get involved in others' business. He refuses to take sides in arguments or do anything that would mean him losing out in any way. Given that the action takes place during the Second World War and his cafe is frequented by Nazi officers, French officials, refugees, and a variety of members of the criminal fraternity "on the make", looking for a free party and loose women, and there were plenty to be found... so this reflects a solid determination.

Rick's desire to remain neutral and his strict policy of non-involvement bear all the hallmarks of existentialism. However, a true existentialist refuses to involve himself in others' lives because this amounts to interference and an existentialist feels he has no right to exert influence on others' lives. So, is Rick acting on the principle of non-interference? I would say that Rick is what I will call a "romantic existentialist", though the effect is largely the same. He is a man who has lost faith in life and especially love. He has lost the desire to consider what is right and wrong because he was hurt, indeed devastated, when the love of his life disappeared from his life, and he is making every effort to ensure he is not hurt or even involved again.

He seeks to avoid being implicated in others' lives not so much because he feels he has no right to influence events, but because he wants no attachments or sentimental responsibility. Actually, he doesn't want anyone to interfere in his life as he has lost faith in others, and as a result appears to have lost the capacity to believe in a cause. Rick is no cold or logical existentialist. We feel that something is eating away at him beneath his brittle shell, and we get our first suggestion that he is in fact something of a romantic at heart when he helps a young lady avoid the corrupt clutches of the chief of police. We see that he is capable of feeling, and that he can see and care about what is right and wrong. This is essential to his appeal, for without this suggestion of humanity he would simply be what he pretends to be— a cold and self-centred opportunist.

Rick wears "existential armor" as a means of coping with what life has thrown at him, but he is reborn when he discovers the truth, that Ilsa's feelings for him were (and are) genuine. This restores his faith and trust, and more importantly his sense of worth. In a sense Ilsa is the braver and more tragic of the two. Believing her husband to be dead, she embarks on a relationship with Rick, a relationship they both find joyous and fulfilling. However, on discovering her husband Victor is in fact alive, she severs her relationship with Rick out of loyalty and respect for her husband. Ilsa's situation is more complex and perhaps even more painful than Rick's as she turns her back on passion and romance in favour of a more admiring and respectful form of love. This would appear to be a victory for principle and spirituality over spontaneous and heartfelt passion— a difficult choice to make and then live with. Yet Ilsa knows the truth about her feelings for Rick, and doubting these feelings is the real source of pain for him. He has come to believe that what meant so much to him was, in fact, false and without basis, and this has caused him to doubt sincerity and motive in general. Of course, when he discovers that he was indeed loved his sense of self worth and self-respect is restored and he is ready to play a part in others' lives once again.

Moreover, Rick displays a selflessness born of love and respect. He puts Ilsa and Victor's fates above his own, thereby also putting the war effort above his own security and turning his back on his "existential crisis" in which he had come to believe in nothing but his own survival. Major Strasser and the nazis may represent the amoral imposition of one will over others' while Victor Laszlo represents the voice of reason and principle. Defiant, courageous and inspiring in the face of overwhelming opposition. Ilsa puts principle above her feelings to follow Victor, and eventually Rick makes a similar choice, putting thoughts of others and belief in principle above personal considerations— a choice made for humanistic reasons and out of self-respect and respect for others. Might this also reflect America's decision to finally get involved in WW2? It is indeed a very real possibility as Hollywood always exercised its voice.

As I have suggested above, I'm not sure that the reasons for Rick's outlook on life can be described as truly existential, though the resultant non-involvement is the same. Other elements— the lack of religion, the way in which the various characters' fates are interdependent, Louis' determination to gain the maximum benefit for himself, the juxtaposition of amorality and principle, the humanistic approach to problems faced by society— these are all classic existential elements. What makes the film all the more special is the fact that all this is combined with romance, compassion and of course humor. An existential drama which is both thought-provoking and entertaining is rare and is to be savored.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wide Awake Past ‘Dawn’

Having read every single one of the novels, it’s no surprise to me that droves of teen-aged girls as well as much older women are huge fans of the Twilight movies. A series of events led to my previewing the fourth installment, Breaking Dawn: Part 1, a week before it premiered on the Friday before Thanksgiving. I had been a die-hard Barnabus Collins fan as Dark Shadows, a gothic soap opera, took over the daytime airwaves with a veangance. But this film is obviously filled with CGI and a TON of special effects, including make-up that the crew at Dark Shadows would have loved to have had. 

What makes this series of films enticing is the love triangle between the 3 lead characters, Edward the vampire, Jacob, the werewolf and of course Bella, the misfit girl who is torn between the two... even though she does tend to lean much further over to the vampire side of things. Team Jacob, in spite of it all, still holds out for Bella to finally have a catharsis in which she leans back to the werewolf side. The competition among the Twi-hard fans is pretty amusing actually. Seeing grown women and their teenage daughters profess their undying allegiance to either Team Edward or Team Jacob is also rather hilarious. On the news one night, I briefly saw an interview with some fans who actually flew in from Europe to camp out for the premiere at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. However, is the hype for the Twilight Saga losing steam? Given the year-and-a-half gap between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, I don’t think so. 

Opening weekend at the box office grossed $221.3 million domestically, trailing slightly behind New Moon’s $230 million opening weekend, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Worldwide, it raked in $283.5 million. What is it about this family of vampires who break traditional notions of vampire characteristics that has captivated millions? Since when can vampires be out in broad daylight and since when have there been good vampires who care more about romantic chivalry than sucking blood? The concept would make F.W. Murnau, 1922 silent film Nosferatu director, and many others shake their heads in disgust. Although good looks and sex have been thrown into the vampire-movie mix over the years, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series redefined the mainstream’s portrayal of a vampire and fantastical rivalry with werewolves. Unfortunately, Meyer can’t be credited as the pioneer of the vampire and wolf rivalry. Len Wiseman’s 2003 film Underworld about a werewolf hunter pits werewolves and vampires against each other first. Underworld also tried to pull together a set of films which, at first, appeared to capture the film noir mystique. But once the films fell into the trap of replacing story with detailed CGI gore... and actress Kate Beckinsale quit after the first film... essentially the rest just became sequels for the sake of building a franchise.

But Breaking Dawn: Part 1 has followed the novels very closely, just as its predecessors. And that is where the adoring fans were going, to watch the characters they had read about so many times just pop out of the pages waiting to culminate and stir the novels even further. There are several stand-offs in this film. During one particular 30-second square-off all I could think was, "Oh Dear God... who gets killed?” only to be awoken from my novel memories [Yes, I read them all folks] when Jacob comes out and causes everyone to stop fighting because he “imprinted” on Bella’s half-vampire baby, which means he will serve whatever role he needs to in her life as she grows up. In the movie, the werewolves’ goal was to kill the baby. So to bebrutally  honest, the Twilight movies are here to stay in the ranks of highly successful book-to-movies. 

Even the books are still successful— perhaps, dare I say it?...even more than the Harry Potter series. Although the quantity of Harry Potter books sold has been higher, the Twilight books have had more staying power in the top 10 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List, according to a USA Today article. The final installment in the saga, Breaking Dawn: Part 2 is scheduled for a November 2012 premiere.

Will there be records broken? Count on it. Will the merchandising continue to soar? More than ever. In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised if the last film in this saga surpasses one or more of the top ten films of all time.

Monday, December 05, 2011

What Fears May Come... From Love

Years ago, showing another person affection, kindness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, consideration and respect and even openly displaying your love was the most natural thing in the world. Nowadays people don't have time to listen to what you have to say, let alone take the time to understand how you might feel. We cover our ears and blindfold our hearts to stop any form of pain creeping in. Sooner or later it finds us anyway. It's the price we pay for clogging up our arteries. These days we don't even give ourselves permission to admit that we need love anymore. We're too scared. Love isn't supposed to be as necessary as food. But it is. If it weren't, why do we feel so much despair and gloom when it's absent, and so elated and exhilarated when we find it? Things have gotten to the point now where it's almost embarrassing to tell anyone you're lonely. So we've closed our hearts and souls, partitioned them off with this impenetrable material so that others don't even know how to get in anymore.

Still, we wear this facade, we march bravely through a series of emotional hells as if we're so damn strong, as if we're invincible, as if we've got our lives totally under control. Some of us actually boast about how good we are at it. How well we're holding up. Well, sometimes I don't hold up very well. And from what I see so many of my friends the same way. We're tired of getting up in the morning, smiling, simulating delight, when in reality the emotional texture of our lives feels more like a desert. Our hearts are dry. Our souls feel like black sunsets. Our minds like monsoons. I pass hundreds of I've-got-it-all-under-control women on the streets every day. But privately, and particularly at night, many of us ache and pray for more love and affection than we're getting, because despite our social status, our incredibly high incomes, our processed appearances, there's a dark void inside us that's all waiting to be filled.

In the past several months... years... we dared not admit that the "unknown factor" that might fill up that empty sense of darkness... is another human being. Now it's an overt display of weakness of will to confess that you still need and want love, companionship, affection, tenderness. It's cause for shame to admit to anybody that you're not getting any, haven't had any in so long that you now spend most of your time apologizing to yourself for continuously allowing yourself to be emotionally shortchanged. It's so much easier to just play it safe, because safe is at least predictable. In the meantime, however, we are barely eeking by. We parade around as if life is so wonderful, but it's so phony, and the energy it takes to fake it begins to wane. After a while you get tired of faking it. You get tired of lying to yourself, and to others, that you're so damn happy. A BMW can't hug and kiss you at night. Shearson Lehman Bros. won't comfort you when your mother dies. A 5,000-square-foot house doesn't care if you live in it alone. The phone company doesn't care a shift if your lover just left you for another woman or man. 

Now, everyone frantically runs the other way if you act as though you really do like them... let alone "love" them. This still baffles me. They seem to be trying to convince themselves that they're better off without intimacy, trust, compassion, support and true love, at least until they can make up their minds what to do once, or when and if... they ever surrender. These same people are treating love as if it's some terminal disease, and if they catch it they're goners. As if there's no "afterlife" if it doesn't work out. I wish more of them would watch how well people DO recover. Observe how resilient we are even after someone breaks our hearts. We are good at picking ourselves up off the ground and going forward with our lives. We don't have any other choice.

One person will not be responsible for our demise, we say to ourselves and to one another. We have also learned how to live with pain and disappointment, because we're used to it. We've learned how to deal with it. We get off the train. We look for another route, not an easier route, but a better route. And even after riding many different trains, we still hop on a moving freight train if we think that what we need might be inside it. 

But closeness is something SO MANY are shying away from because apparently it could lead to death. They don't want us to see them completely naked. They don't want us to see their heartbeat because then they would be discovered, they would be found out: that they're even more vulnerable than we are because they work too hard trying not to be. But I swear, I'm way too tired of guessing which door is the right one to knock on, and I'm almost out of breath... not to mention time. I just don't "get it". Our hearts are surviving at the poverty level. We're scared to death that getting "too close" will cost us too much. Apparently it's become so expensive to love that many of us are now simply unwilling to pay. This bothers me.

It hurts to acknowledge that you aren't being loved, or that you haven't loved anyone since you aren't exactly sure when, and that's when that ache begins to feel more like pain and you realize you're much older now, that this isn't college, that this isn't a term paper: It's the Final Exam and you're failing in a big way. You look around and realize that you're alone, and this picture is all wrong. Or the person you once cherished is gone. Or they're there and you wish they were gone. Or perhaps you simply no longer cherish them; they no longer cherish you. All you know is that your emotional life feels like a dead zone, as if it's been freeze-dried. This is not at all the way you dreamed it all would be. And you know what most people are very good at doing? Keeping up appearanaces. It's all about the walls and defense mechanisms... not wanting to reveal that maybe they should move in another direction. Open another door. Take a chance... whether it makes complete sense or not. 

I believe that the choices which make no sense whatsoever are often exactly the ones we should trust, because there is something we are supposed to learn. And yet you're still hoping, still praying, still waiting for that massive waterfall of rose petals. So you keep your fingers crossed that one day you might get lucky and find what you need. That one day you'll feel the rush, the rapture. That one day you'll meet the person who'll put the passion back into your life, who'll make your spirit quicken, who'll make your soul and heart feel like a harp. That one day you'll be able to merge because you've found the person with whom you mesh. That you have finally arrived somewhere you want to stay.

In the meantime, however, you continue to live your life as if it's a checking account. For years you assumed you had an unlimited reserve, but now your life is half over, and the checks are starting to bounce. You are surprised by your own mortality, how much you've let slip by, how much you haven't done, how differently you'd do it if you could do it all over. But you can't. I write primarily because I want to make deposits, not withdrawals. For me, writing is more like having a savings account: It's that zone God put inside all of us to go to when we've run out of checks. I'd like to think of writing as a kind of gift you give to others. It doesn't have to be the perfect gift, and it can't be the whole gift, because I don't know exactly what everyone needs.

I'm just curious as hell as to why we do what we do. I want to find out what's wrong, what's missing, what we need to do to make our lives better, to restore what we've lost: generosity, self-respect and respect for others; the desire to make others happy; kindness; love. I'm intriuged by what people feel, how we survive, why we treat one another the way we do, and the effect that treatment has on our lives.

I often hope for too much, and I know it. I'm a die-hard idealist and wouldn't want to be any other way, which is another reason, I think, I write. So far it's the easiest way I've found to stretch myself out, to be of some service to the world, even if it is on a small scale. All I'm trying to do is explore, investigate, probe the living, breathing world of all people... because they're my family, as we are all parts of the same whole... and I care about my family. My primary interest lies with those who overcome the odds. I'm more interested in people who either force themselves or are forced to learn how to untie the knots in their lives, who are willing to tough it out, go through hell if they have to, in order to come out happier, sounder people.

Long-standing victims are usually just that, and I find them boring. I'm much more interested in how people exercise courage, faith, how we overcome our fears.

One of my major hopes is that anyone who reads whatever I write will enjoy the journey, the expedition, even the painful parts, but I also hope they laugh. We need laughter, too. And to be honest, I get a charge from the probing. The digging. The search... the quest. Some people think that writing down your feelings and thoughts and observations is scary. It often is. But I'm willing to make the emotional investment because when I was growing up, my grandmother and my Mom taught me that anything worth doing in life should be a little scary, that you have to be willing to jump off the cliff before you can see where you might land; but you have to believe that you're going to land. So my investment is an emotional one, and it is expensive, but I'm willing to pay, because sometimes it's inside that so-called danger zone that I discover where the secrets of happiness are hiding.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daytime Soap Operas— No Life Support

We knew it was far too "fantasy-like" to be true. Some new company with bold vision and a bright red cape saving "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" and airing them both on the web. All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate learned 3 to 4 months ago that Prospect Park began to feel the "sting" of budget demands and that their web plans were beginning to wane. Talks with SAG and AFTRA weren't going exactly as planned and ABC Daytime and the Evil Dr. Brian Frons was happily planning his "I'd Rather Kill Myself Than Watch This Crap" show line-up to replace the soap operas he didn't really care for as he never bothered to promote them.

Five months ago, independent production firm Prospect Park acquired the rights to the two long-running ABC melodramas with the hopes of turning them into widely watched web series. But on Wednesday, the company announced that it was abandoning its efforts after failing to make financially viable deals with brand-name online distributors, such as Hulu or Google, and after failing to get cost-cutting concessions from Hollywood's powerful talent guilds. The company had hoped the unions would accept lower wages for their members, as the shows were moving from TV to the Internet. But the two sides could not come to terms, Prospect Park said. Advertisers also were skeptical that enough viewers, particularly the ALWAYS loyal over-50 crowd, would watch online. Really?

So why the smoke and mirrors? Why manipulate a rather large audience into believing they sincerely would have the "option" to watch their beloved shows online? And why not just announce the inevitable fate/demise of "General Hospital"... and pull the Band-Aid off quickly? In case you haven't been paying close attention... all of the afternoon slots have been filled on ABC, including the "General Hospital" time slot. If you check out the morning slots, they too are filled. So when and where is "General Hospital" going to air? Good question. We sadly believe that GH will also be cancelled. This leaves 3 soap operas... "The Young and The Restless", "The Bold and The Beautiful" and "Days of Our Lives". If "The Young and The Restless" is cancelled... "The Bold and The Beautiful" will also be cancelled. As for "Days of Our Lives", well, I wouldn't give it more than a 15% shot of making it through another year... and I'm being generous. If these 3 remain, it will be nothing short of a miracle. But changes HAVE TO be made.

So who is REALLY responsible for this massive slaughter of a genre that once stood tall and proud and boasted guest stars like Elizabeth Taylor? Truth? They [the soap operas] NEVER EVER made a natural evolution/transition into the decades which followed the 80's. Producers were fired. But then they were simply re-hired by another soap. It was exactly the same with all of the writers. A group of writers would find themselves jobless on Friday... only to find themselves in another soap opera studio on Monday. Daytime Soap Operas became the most INCESTUOUS group of Producers, Directors, Writers and Editors EVER to remain on television.

What does all of this translate into? God-awful OVER-recycled writing, bad production and two decades of musical chairs with the exact same people running the shows. Okay, how many people have you known to fake a pregnancy and actually get away with it? With the amount of technology that we now have that storyline made us all cringe. Why did it continue to take 6 to 12 months to get to the meat of any story? And think about the rest of the stories. Oh Dear God... they were so unbelievably absurd that at some point I found myself wondering how any of these fictional people made it as far as they did without being killed or swindled much sooner. And we all KNOW the soap opera rules: No body, possibly still alive. Girl loses guy, girl becomes psychotic, either attempts to kill someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol... or heads for a mental hospital in another town. Rich men never go to jail no matter how many federal or state laws they break. There is ALWAYS an abandoned cabin for a couple on the run and it's always furnished and filled with food. The list of absurdities just goes on and on... and on... I'm 900% certain that each of you has a Soap Opera plot device that irritates you beyond understanding.

The audience literally became far too advanced for this stuff. Yes romance is wonderful, but at what cost? Most of the people I know aren't willing to allow their intelligence to be destroyed, stepped on and insulted. Sure, a lot of the stuff I mentioned used to be fun to watch, but then... it got old. It never stopped. Most of the writers kept right on pulling out the old stand-bys. Can you imagine what it would be like if film actors used the exact same methods of acting as they did in the early 40's and 50's? It might be really really funny at first... but then we'd all start asking ourselves, "Why are they talking like that?"... "Make them stop!"

Anyway, as we all know, the "Guiding Light" Otalia storyline [played to perfection by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia] came to a grinding halt when the "suits" at P&G decided that two women should not be given a love scene or be able to display affection in the same manner as heterosexual couples have for years. What was even more interesting was that the two characters were not necessarily "gay" as much as they were perhaps bisexual or just two people of the same sex who fell in love. No matter how it was defined by the writers, the actresses or the viewers, the story was never given the proper ending causing fans all over the world to be outraged. And rightfully so as the story itself became a worldwide phenomenon. WHY? Because it was DIFFERENT! It wasn't the same old stories simply being recycled. It was original.

But you see, originality was and still is frowned upon by the producers, directors and writers who have had to either slip into a coma or die to be replaced. You see, this doesn't happen on Prime-Time Network Television [although the shows are becoming cloned every season... how many CSI cities are there now?]. This also doesn't happen in films, at least not the films that are worth watching and thankfully enough... there are still some left.

Also, why oh why was their never ever enough sexual, cultural, religious, ethnic and racial diversity? Soap Operas RARELY took risks with anyone who could have stepped up and gave us all lessons in embracing diversity. Sure there were moments, here and there... but 80% to 90% of the time these stories were backdrops for the stories we'd been watching over and over again to the point of nausea. Otalia was thrust into the forefront/spotlight because of the actresses and the writers who weren't afraid to take risks. But then, who would be afraid to take a risk knowing cancellation was bearing down upon them? And if you are going to be cancelled anyway, take it ALL THE WAY! Why stop it with words and caresses? Why not go for it? What did they have to lose? THEY WERE CANCELLED! Who would they have hurt? No... they were all too afraid that God watching, waiting to dole out stock hits to the old guys. What a rip-off.

And what was the "OFFICIAL" word on the deal that could have brought a few soaps to the web? The bull shit statement that was filled with nothing more than a gargantuan PR cover up. These people never cared. The fans cared, but corporate suits? Oh please... they were all looking for a quick bargain with no flavor. Here it comes: "We always knew it would be an uphill battle to create something historical, and unfortunately we couldn't ultimately secure the backing and clear all the hurdles in time," Prospect Park partners Rich Frank and Jeffrey Kwatinetz said in a statement. "We believe we exhausted all reasonable options apparent to us, but despite enormous personal, as well as financial cost to ourselves, we failed to find a solution."

The move was another gut-punch for soap opera fans who have been in mourning since ABC announced earlier this year that it was canceling the two soaps due to financial pressures. The two programs, created by the doyenne of the genre, Agnes Nixon, had been on the air for more than 40 years each. "All My Children" made a household name out of Susan Lucci. "One Life to Live" helped launch the careers for Tommy Lee Jones, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Cross. Daytime drama viewers were hopeful that Prospect Park would transform the fading TV genre into a thriving niche on the Internet. Soap-opera fans aren't the only ones disheartened by Prospect Park's decision not to revive "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" online. The Writers Guild of America, West is expressing its dismay too. "We were disappointed to learn that Prospect Park's financing fell through," the WGAW said in a statement provided to TheWrap. "Prior to the end of last week, we were close to a fair deal for the writers."

Fair deal? For writers who have been penning the same tired, crappy storylines for the past two decades? Okay, not ALL of the writers were bad... but they refused to swing the bat and hit it all out of the park. As a creative person, you have to be willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of the art. If you can't... I'm sorry but the word "hack" comes to mind. Where were the Asian storylines? Where were the cultural explorations? What about the LGBT storylines, with full blown love scenes? I'm Italian and Lebanese and have "yet" to see a soap opera go there. Diversity. It is a word that we MUST fight for a word we MUST embrace and hold... or we are all part of a hypocrisy that will continue to destroy the entertainment we love. My heart goes out to all soap opera fans. You were cheated, lied to and taken for granted. Oh and Brian Frons... this guy is still whistling Disney tunes. I would tell all of you to keep on fighting if I believed it would make a difference.... sadly, I don't feel that it would.

I don't have a clear cut answer for you. But I do know this: that the web is destroying the "control" the networks and studios used to have on its viewers... and that my friends... is a GREAT thing!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Star Fox 64 3D for Nintendo 3DSi— AMAZING!

It's been fourteen years since the original Star Fox 64, and now its time to barrel roll again in this remake for the 3DS. But is it worth it to buy this remake? To say the least YES! Star Fox 64 3D does an amazing job of recapturing the fun and gameplay of the original version with revamped graphics and new ways to control your vehicle. Its a must buy for the 3DS with only one problem to the game which is no WIFI, but that will be discussed later in the review. The story of Star Fox is set in the fictional Lylat System. The evil scientist Andross goes insane and nearly destroys his home planet of Corneria. Then General Pepper exiles him to the desolate planet of Venom. Five yerars later Corneria discovers mysterious activities coming from Venom. General Pepper deploys the Star Fox team (consisting of James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar) to investigate. Pigma betrays his team, and allows them to be captured. Peppy manages to escape, but James doesn't and dies.

This is where the game picks up, years later Andross tries to again capture the Lylat system, and this time General Pepper hires the new Star Fox team (Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and Slippy Toad). The game revolves around their efforts to get to Venom and ultimately destroy Andross once and for all.

Like the original game, Star Fox 64 3D consists of different paths that you can enter and exit during the story. Unlike the original, you have a choice to choose which path you want to go  down (depending on what you did in the previous mission), making it easier to make the story unfold the way you want it to. During the game you go through six different worlds with different challenges and strategic bosses, before you go the seventh world where you find Andross. There are three different vehicles that you use. The Arwing (titular vehicle, used for most missions), the Land Master (a large mobile tank used for land based maps) and the Blue Marine (a submarine for underwater based maps). There are two ways of controlling your vehicle— using the 3DS gyroscope and circle pad to move, or using the original N64 controls. I preferred the original controllers over the 3DS ones, simply because of the fact that you can control your vehicle more fluidly with the circle pad instead of tilting the 3DS in the direction you wanna move. Also tilting the 3DS blurs the 3D effect so you would have to turn the 3D off just to enjoy the game.

The graphics are simply beautiful, having undergone a complete overhaul of the whole game, not missing a single detail. No more polygonal shapes, the developers made full use of the 3DS advanced hardware and revamped everything, just showing the power of the 3DS. Having the 3D on does not slow this game down, so you can enjoy this game in full 3D, having asteroids, lasers, and even the boost off of Fox's Arwing come at you. The added depth only adds to the brilliance of the redesigned graphics. There are only few downsides to this game, its primary flaw is a lack of ultra cool multiplayer modes. The gameplay of the multiplayer mode is not a massive problem, because essentially, it's the same as the original, and also has three different battle modes and power ups to use.

The different battle modes consist of points match, survival, and time battle. There's also the an intriguing feature which lets you see your opponents face during the match. The problem is rooted in the absence of WIFI, with the game being download play only. This makes the replay of the game a bit remiss, especially if you're like me and don't live in a area with many people who own a 3DS. Playing by yourself in this mode, is fun at first, but later on it gets repetitive and boring. But, the story itself, and the occasional multiplayer match with someone else... more than makes up for this flaw.

What can I say? Star Fox 64 3D is an awesome remake of the original game and is well worth the $40 price tag. The gameplay is simply superb, and the graphics are stunning. This remake does a incredible job of improving on the original but not taking away from the fun of it. The only downside I can see is the absence of online play, and for some... the shortness of the main story. But when it's all said and done, Star Fox 64 3D is a really cool game that you should add to your 3DS collection.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking Dawn: Part 1— Breaking Records

After storming the box office this weekend, Summit’s newest “Twilight” movie looks on track to gross nearly $300 million domestically. Richie Fay, Summit’s distribution chief, told the press over the weekend that he expects “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn– Part 1” to end up taking in about the same amount as “New Moon” grossed in 2009. He said it was too soon to give a definitive projection. After this weekend, when box-office watchers can evaluate the drop between opening weekend audiences and second-week audiences, better estimates will be available. For now, though, one executive at a rival studio commented that "Breaking Dawn" is "certainly on track to do $285 million perhaps more" domestically. Also read: 'Twilight' Money: How Summit Plans to Make $1.2B Off 'Breaking Dawn' “New Moon,” the second in the “Twilight” franchise, grossed $296.6 million domestically and $413.2 internationally.

Both "Twilight" movies opened on the same weekend— “New Moon” opened November 20th, 2009 and “Breaking Dawn” opened on November 18th— and both opened to similar box office figures. “Breaking Dawn” had a $139.5 million opening weekend compared to “New Moon’s” $142.8 million. But CinemaScore, the moviegoer surveying firm, said audiences liked “New Moon” better than they liked “Breaking Dawn.”

“New Moon” had a score of “A-,” while “Breaking Dawn” received a middling “B+.” Among the core audience of females, however, “Breaking Dawn” scored an “A-.” In between those movies, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” opened on June 30th, 2010 to $157.6 million. But because it opened on a Wednesday, it had a 5-day opening weekend, rather than a 3-day one. It went on to gross $300.5 million domestically and $397.9 million internationally.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Willie Nelson Speaks Out on Canine Profiling

Legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson knows a thing or two about outlaws, but he fights for the rights of those who undeservingly end up on the wrong side of the law. Nelson is using his famous voice to speak out in support of the “favorable and quick” passage of Ohio House Bill 14, legislation that would remove canine profiling from Ohio’s books. The bill already has passed the Ohio House of Representatives and is up for consideration by the Senate. Ohio is the only state in the country that automatically declares a type of dog vicious based solely on appearance, rather than behavior. Any pit bull terrier-type dog, or any dog resembling a pit bull, falls under this discriminatory law. HB 14 would remove this breed-specific designation and strengthen the state’s dangerous dog laws to target reckless owners and dangerous dogs instead of innocent pets.

Nelson, who speaks out on animal welfare issues for Best Friends Animal Society, encourages Ohio residents to contact their senators and the committee members and urge them to support HB 14. 

More information and simple ways to take action are available here:

Nelson’s letter, sent “on behalf of dog lovers everywhere,” asks senators vote to overturn the statewide discrimination “against dogs who all share a cluster of physical characteristics by classifying this group as ‘vicious’ without any regard to individual dog behavior. These dogs are considered ‘vicious’ at birth, even though there are countless dogs of unknown heritage who are deemed ‘pit bulls’ and are wonderful family pets.”

His letter goes on to say: “Dogs, much like people, are individuals and should each be judged on his/her own merits. The simple truth is that breed is not a factor in bites, and HB 14 is an important public safety measure that will protect individuals from any dangerous dog, no matter what the dog’s appearance or heritage.” 

In addition to the high-profile support of Nelson, actress and activist Maggie Q also urges passage of HB 14 through a YouTube video:

A petition at has already collected more than 10,500 signatures in support of the bill. Breed-discriminatory laws are expensive and have been proven ineffective in protecting the public. According to economic research firm John Dunham and Associates, it costs Ohioans more than $17 million a year to enforce the existing law. Best Friends Animal Society, the Ohio County Dog Wardens, the County Commissioners' Association of Ohio and the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates all support HB 14. HB 14 which would essentially allow all dogs to be evaluated and treated as individuals and permit local jurisdictions the authority to hold any/all reckless owners accountable for the behavior of their dogs.

Best Friends Animal Society works to help pit bulls through its national pit bull initiatives, which battle everything from these dogs’ sensationalized reputation to legislation designed to bring about their extinction. The initiatives’ goal is to end discrimination against all dogs— because they are individuals and should be treated as such. As part of its ongoing national outreach, Best Friends works with humane groups all across the country to bring about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets®. 

Follow Best Friends Animal Society on Facebook go to: 

Follow Best Friends on Twitter:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Deepak Chopra's Leela for Gamers

Deepak Chopra, the internationally renowned author and expert on mind— body wellness, brings his extraordinary creativity, insight and philosophies to an entirely new medium today: video game consoles. “There are just so many people who practice yoga and meditation who have video game systems in their homes, but they rarely use them— but these are very powerful devices, capable of creating wonderful experiences. I hope anyone who explores Leela will feel enriched by what we’ve created.” Deepak Chopra’s Leela, published by THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI), is a truly groundbreaking journey of both the body and mind, combining ancient wisdom and traditions with technology on interactive gaming consoles.

Leela is a one-of-a-kind experience that invokes full-body movement with meditation and breathing techniques, designed to unwind body tension and offer more focus for mind and spirit. “Leela” meant “play” in ancient languages— a concept vital to mind— body wellness. “The medium of interactive video games is enormously rich and filled with creative opportunity that has barely been tapped,” says Chopra, who, along with Curious Pictures, spent more than two years conceptualizing Leela. “There are many people who practice yoga and meditation who have video— game systems in their homes, but they rarely use them— but these are powerful devices, capable of creating absolutely wonderful experiences. I hope anyone who explores Leela will feel completely enriched by what we’ve created.”

Leela is based on the concept of the Seven Chakras, which are energy centers inside every human being. Through seven movements, Leela helps us connect with the Chakras— each movement focuses on a different part of the body. There is no winning or losing in Leela— Leela moves at an individual’s pace. The goal is to instill an inner sense of harmony, rejuvenation and balance. For the first time ever, with Kinect for Xbox 360, players can see and measure their breath in real time on-screen. Leela also offers gentle feedback and encouragement to enhance the meditative breathing practice.

Each person who experiences Leela will also have an opportunity to create a personalized “mandala,” or visual representation of the inner self. No two can possibly be alike, and each one reflects the beauty, nature, senses and imagination of the individual. Players will be able to create and share their personal mandalas with friends and family on Facebook. Whether experienced for two minutes or two hours at a time, Leela offers an utterly unique means of relaxing and finding balance. To learn more about Deepak Chopra’s Leela, visit

Kurt Cobain by Bridget Petrella on the Behance Network

Kurt Cobain by Bridget Petrella on the Behance Network

Hard-Fi— Approaching The Apex

Hard-Fi are approaching a dramatic new apex in their career. Critically acclaimed, commercially successful and tower block tall, the West London four-piece continue to reinvigorate music with raw, category-defying sounds and instant, merciless beats. Neither bound by musical restriction or industry expectation, they follow their blazing, genre-defining Number 1 U.K. debut ‘Stars of CCTV’ with the eagerly anticipated ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’, September 11th3rd. In short, Hard-Fi are the sound of now. Written by frontman Richard Archer and co-produced by Richard with Wolsey White, it’s a landmark LP of scopic, wide-eyed, unrepressed tracks. Mixed by Spike Stent (U2, Bjork & Madonna), it’s their second studio album and their most cohesive, definitive release to date. Boasting 12 killer anthems, including the blistering new single ‘Suburban Knights’, August 20th, it’s truly hard to beat.

Born from the kitchen sink fatalism of Staines in 2002, Hard-Fi— Richard Archer (vocals), Ross Phillips (guitar), Kai Stephens (bass) and Steven Kemp (drums)— have emerged from suburbia triumphant. After recording their dazzling debut in the ultimate broke down palace— a dilapidated taxi rank that cost £300 in rent— it matured into a DIY triumph that propelled them into the A-list. Selling nearly 1 million UK copies and then quickly soaring to Number 1, it spurned the radio mainstay hit singles: ‘Cash Machine’, ‘Hard To Beat’ & ‘Living For The Weekend’.

“I lost my dad 5 years ago and he was the one who’d always tell me to pursue my dream. He’d been working for other people his entire life and wouldn’t let the bastards get him down. He inspired me to get out there and kick some arse…When we were first signed, the major labels didn’t want to know,” says Richard. “They mistook variety for being inconsistent— they obviously hadn’t ever listened to the Clash” Nominated for the 2005 Mercury Music Prize and Best British Group at the 2006 BRITs, their defiance paid off. In a matter of months Hard-Fi had shapeshifted into one of Britain’s biggest bands. Their first major tour sold out in a record 15 minutes and saw them play London's Brixton Academy for 5 consecutive nights— making them one of the few bands to actually do so alongside such legends as The Clash, Bob Dylan &The Prodigy— plus the only act to do it with their debut album.

“Whenever I think of a great British band— The Rolling Stones, The Specials, Massive Attack— they're not just a rock band," Richard explains. "At the end of the day we're a rock'n'roll band but we listen to hip-hop, we listen to house music, we listen to dub and reggae and we're not afraid to introduce that.” Now, following a white-hot headline set at Glastonbury in support of Love Music Hate Racism, they return to the fray with their eagerly awaited new LP. “We’ve learnedt a lot in the making of this record. People say that debut albums are always the best because you have a lifetime of experience to pour into them, but that’s all just a bunch of bullshit. The last three years have been like 20 years compressed.”

“Before we started the LP, I wanted to make something that sounded dark, atmospheric with elements of the Clash and Stones— and we’ve really fucking nailed that. CCTV was put it on and turn it up, this is sharper, more tactical and raw.”

“We were tempted to fuck off and record it abroad, but it didn’t seem appropriate,” says Richard. “We looked around at other UK studios, but decided that everyone else records there…and we definitely didn’t want to sound like everyone else. Ultimately, nothing really made us feel comfortable but, saying that, recording in Staines was anything but comfortable— we returned to our converted taxi office, which didn’t have running water until halfway through. It was more the fact that we could do what we wanted. We used bigger studios to mix, but conceived it in our natural environment.”

“The first album came together in stages— track, EP, mini album then album— so this felt like the first time we truly made a record,” he adds. “It’s like anything we do, it’s never contrived. It’s just what comes out. There are still elements of CCTV-style social commentary, but it’s more subtle and integrated. The 12 tracks are simply the best ones written, and they just happened to mean something.”

“We were on tour and watching ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ while on the bus. Ultimately, that title reflected the theme of the album— these are stories from our west, West London”.

Standout tracks include the 70’s SKA-inspired ‘We Need Love’, and ‘Tonight’. “The latter is a big piano-driven number— it had a few incarnations before it became what it is, but it’s about the possibility of night time. History is made at night.” Meanwhile, the former harks back to the Specials and was inspired by Billy Bragg’s acclaimed novella ‘The Progressive Patriot’. Other highlights include the rousing R&B swagger of ‘Can’t Get Along’ with its stomping Motown lilt, the stark fragility of ‘Help Me Please’— a track written about the death of Richard’s mother— plus, ‘I Shall Overcome’ which echoes an early Clash while remaining truly, unmistakably Hard-Fi, and the lead single ‘Suburban Knights’.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Future of Broadcast Television Summit

Television broadcasting executives, technologists and engineers gathering this week in China agreed that a global approach to the future of terrestrial TV broadcasting is the ideal method to avoid competing standards, overlap, and inefficient deployment of new services. At 11:11 a.m. local time on 11/11/11, more than 200 delegates to the Future of Broadcast Television Summit officially expressed unified support for a joint declaration signed by technical executives from 13 broadcast organizations from around the world that calls for global cooperation to define new requirements, unify various standards, and promote sharing of all technologies to benefit developed and under-developed countries and conserve resources.

A common theme running throughout the entire summit was... that broadcasting— the transmission of information to an unlimited number of listeners and viewers— is the most spectrum-efficient means for wireless delivery of popular real-time and file-based content. The signatories of the declaration believe that the broadcasting and TV industries will continue to evolve and play a critical role in bringing both information and entertainment to everyone.

While television has prospered, it has not been possible for the world to take full advantage of the convenience and economies of scale of a single broadcast standard. Even in the digital age, splintering of different standards and methods of broadcast TV transmission makes it difficult to share information and entertainment globally.

As a result of the Future of Broadcast Television (FoBTV) Summit, supporters for the declaration agree to three major global initiatives:

1. Define the requirements of future terrestrial broadcast systems. "The collaboration between broadcast television and Internet content will play a vital role in providing attractive services. The broadcast industry is committed to developing necessary technologies to create and deliver new media and information services by taking advantage of future broadcast systems. We also know the critical role played by broadcasting in times of emergency," notes the declaration.

2. Explore unified terrestrial broadcast standards. "We aim to promote cooperation among broadcasters, communications companies and manufacturers of broadcast equipment and all types of receiving devices. We all seek to maximize proper and efficient use of spectrum resources, as well as exchanges and cooperation between communication systems and broadcasting on both a technological and business level," says the declaration.

3. Promote global technology sharing. "A flexible future broadcast ecosystem, with collaboration between different areas and among broadcasters, research institutes, and industries, will foster new broadcast technological innovation. We all commit to the elimination of broadcasting technological gaps. We realize that advances in broadcasting technologies should benefit both developed and developing countries," the declaration states.

"Today, technological innovation may be able to break down many of the long-standing barriers that have prevented common systems," according to the joint declaration announced today.

"This would enable us to remove the major gaps between the different television signal formats and transmission systems used around the world. Digitization has really opened the door for a vast global broadcasting renaissance."

"We need to explore new ways of cooperation, seek the progressive unification of standards, and realize technology sharing so that the efficiency and convenience enabled by digitization will be realized— not reduced by system fragmentation. The 21st Century is an era of integration of broadcasting, Internet, and communications, all of which have evolved in parallel. Consumers are calling for more convenient and user-friendly services. The development of digital technology opens the possibility of cooperation among all the different networks and transmission systems," the joint declaration states.

The declaration— is being signed by technical executives of:
Tthe Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), The Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC), Communications Research Center (CRC), Digital Video Broadcast Project (DVB), The European Broadcast Union (EBU), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Globo TV Network, IEEE Broadcast Technology Society, The  National Association of Broadcasters, The National Engineering Research Center of Digital TV of China, NHK Science and Technical Research Laboratories, Public Broadcasting Service and the Brazilian Society of Television Engineers (SET).

Info can be accessed at the following link:

Monday, November 07, 2011

A Silent Connective Truth

Stars shine like jewels strewn across the blackness of space. For centuries, people looked up at the night sky in awe. Believing the planets, stars and moons were not merely distant lights shining in the firmament... but rather the eternal source of order in the universe. That if we could hear the music of the spheres, we could act in accordance with that order. Rather than struggle uselessly against it. Now, the lights of cities outshine those in the heavens... and the only stars most of us watch are the kind in films, television and the web. But a silent truth remains... That we are all human... and we are all connected to the infinite. And that we ignore that connection...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Google+ Embraces Big Business

Google Apps fans, today we’re ready to add you to our circles. Google+ makes sharing on the web more like sharing in the real world, and now Google+ is available to people who use Google Apps at college, at work or at home. Starting now you can manually turn on Google+ for your organization. Once Google+ is turned on, your users will just need to sign up at to get started. For customers who use Google Apps for Business or the free version of Google Apps and who have chosen to automatically enable new services, Google+ will automatically become available to all of your users over the next several days.*

Google Apps users will have access to the same set of features that are available to every Google+ user, and more. In addition to sharing publicly or with your circles, you’ll also have the option to share with everyone in your organization, even if you haven’t added all of those people to a circle. Google+ at home, at work and at college— you can easily use Google Apps in lots of different ways, and we expect the same for Google+. Apps users from artists to doctors to parents to students to teachers to scientists have told us that they are ready to join the 40 million people already sharing on Google+.

Circles is a great way to share relevant content with the right people. With Circles, your photography crew doesn’t have to get an update about your morning workout, your triathlon team doesn’t have to see all your thoughts on the latest camera gear, and your project teams can be kept separate from all of this.

Hangouts with extras, which combines multi-person video chat with screen sharing and collaboration in Google Docs, lets you work together on projects even when your team can't be in the same room. Whether you’re out of town, working on a project with a distributed group, or just don’t feel like walking to the next building for your meeting, Hangouts with extras can give your team the productivity boost it needs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jackie Brown Blu-ray— Action and Insight

I have to say it… Jackie Brown is one of Quentin Tarantino’s most overlooked films. It was originally released on 1997 and stars Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Sameul L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton. Maybe it’s because it does not have as much action as Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction. What you do get with this film is Tarantino’s most quintessential dialogue and outstanding performances from the cast. Pam Grier is exceptional in this role that she transcends all barriers and is so easily to relate to in so many ways. Jackson and Tarantino work so well together that I know I am in for a treat when it comes to scripting and some deeply intense dialogue. Jackie Brown delivers on all those levels. Praised with “4 stars,” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), Tarantino’s feature film follow-up Jackie Brown earned a 1997 Oscar® nomination for supporting actor Robert Forster (Mulholland Drive), three Golden Globe nominations (including Best Musical/Comedy) and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Pam Grier’s performance.  An all-star cast joins Grier and Forster, including Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda in Tarantino’s adaptation of the novel by Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma, Out of Sight, Killshot).

A sexy flight attendant (Grier) is caught in a plot between the police and an arms dealer, and everyone’s looking for the payoff. There are six unlikely players on the trail for a big score— a half million dollars in cash. But alliances are shaky when its unclear who is playing and who is getting played. This Blu-ray disc is a must-own for fans of Tarantino, but also fans of Elmore Leonard. The special features give fans a comprehensive look into the creation of the film.

Blu-ray Features:
Breaking Down Jackie Brown—  (A critics’ roundtable discussion offering their opinions on the film.), Jackie Brown: How It Went Down featurette ( interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert De Niro etc.), A Look Back at Jackie Brown— (Interview with Quentin Tarantino), Deleted and Alternate Scenes (self-explanatory), Chicks With Guns video (features a nice Tarantino introduction), Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies— (Jackie Brown Review), Jackie Brown on MTV,    Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots & Poster Gallery, Enhanced Trivia Track, Stills Galleries, Robert Forster Trailers, Pam Grier Trailers, Pam Grier Radio Spots, Soundtrack Chapters

As a film advocate I loved Breaking Down Jackie Brown which features critics talking about how they reacted and related to the film on a personal and professional level. I really enjoyed seeing them talk about a film as if they were having a conversation after seeing the movie. The conversation is very insightful yet relaxed. Jackie Brown: How It Went Down featurette is a lot of fun as well. I can never get enough of Quentin Tarantino talking about his films. He is so passionate and charismatic when he talks about a movie you can truly tell that he is a fan first and foremost. I loved seeing the interview parts with Pam Grier and the rest of the cast. There is some cool video footage in here from the set as well, which gives an interesting insight into what it was like to film the movie.

I think the entire film was cast perfectly, especially Pam Grier and Robert Forster. There chemistry on screen in the scenes they have together is wonderful. I also loved getting a glimpse at Forster’s career in film through a reel of his trailers. It is definitely worth a watch, and points out some cool movies I want to check out. It also made me laugh to think about how trailers were presented. We think that trailers often share too much today, but some of the old school movie trailers made me think I had basically seen the movie. If you have never seen this film, this should be added to your must-watch list. If you may not have cared for the film on a first or second viewing, give it another shot on Blu-ray. The picture and sound quality is phenomenal. The picture 1080p and aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is better than the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The sound quality is perfect with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which allows you to listen to all the cool dialogue and even cooler soundtrack to the film.

Pulp Fiction on Blu-Ray— Masterfully Stunning

Pulp Fiction hasn’t lost its masterful irony in its new Blu-ray incarnation. If anything, the giddiness Tarantino fuses to the action genre is more appealing in an era of shaky cams and uncertain plot twists. Pulp Fiction defies categorization of any sort. It’s a series of interlocking stories with th occasional radiance of a mysterious glowing briefcase [the contents are never revealed] as we are left to ponder the spiritual element buried beneath… which cleverly allows us to perpetually stay on the ride. The main story involves a pair of chatty thugs doing the bidding of the mysterious Marsellus (Ving Rhames). Vincent and Jules (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) wax philosophically and share unexpected opinions in between blood-thirsty assignments. Vincent seems more interested in cultural differences across the pond than doing Marsellus’ dirty work, while Jules has a speech for nearly any occasion. But Vincent gets more than he bargained for when Marsellus asks him to escort his lovely wife (Uma Thurman) on a platonic date.

It goes without saying that Pulp Fiction was a true phenomenon upon its release in 1994. From its fractured narrative structure, to the unpredictable dialogue, to the treasure chest of brilliant performances, there was nothing else like it in theaters at the time. Though its freshness and originality have been dulled somewhat by the scores of imitators that followed, the movie remains bracingly entertaining. That’s the sweet part of the experience. The bitter aftertaste is realizing that writer-director Quentin Tarantino hasn’t come close to touching it in the seventeen years that followed.

The back of the Blu-ray case reads: “Stunning 1080p Transfer Approved by Quentin Tarantino.” The hyperbole proves entirely true, as Pulp Fiction looks extraordinarily great on Blu-ray. This is a considerable improvement over the standard DVD. The picture is razor sharp, with an incredible amount of detail. From the blood streaks in Jules’ car after Marvin is shot, to the individual strands in Travolta’s hairpiece, every aspect of Andrzej Sekua’s vivid cinematography is presented perfectly. Colors are bold and realistic, such as in the Jack Rabbit Slim’s sequence. Pulp Fiction hasn’t looked better since its theatrical release.

There are two new high definition featurettes exclusive to the Blu-ray release. One is a 20-minute discussion between several critics, assessing the movie seventeen years after its release. The other is a 43-minute collection of new interviews with some of the cast members. This is a fun piece, with interesting reflections from John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Eric Stolz, Amanda Plummer, and Rosanna Arquette. Too bad a few more of the key cast members didn’t participate, as it would’ve been great to hear from Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, and Harvey Keitel. Presented in standard definition, the features from the DVD release have been ported over as well, which include deleted scenes and assorted featurettes. Pulp Fiction on Blu-ray is simply a must-own release for any collector or anyone who has a deeply rooted appreciation for film noir with a graphically dark twist. The movie holds up exceedingly well after all these years, especially with this immaculate high definition presentation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stan Lee Launches New Kids Imprint

The legendary Stan Lee has teamed up with publisher 1821 Comics to launch a new multi-platform imprint for children called “Stan Lee’s Kids Universe.” At the New York Comic Con presentation recently, explained: “Our main purpose is we feel that there aren’t enough comic books or books for kids that really hit the target, that gives them excitement and humor together and are filled with surprises. We have a whole new group of new characters that the kids can call their own, just as the teenagers called Spider-Man their own so many years ago.”

The imprint’s inaugural list consists of six projects; five books and an interactive game for the iPhone and iPad. The first two books, Monsters vs. Kittens and Once Upon a Time, were both created by Dani Jones and they will be released in Spring 2012. The remaining three books include The Fuzz Posse, Reggie the Veggie Crocodile and a not-yet-titled book starring an animal rock band. The Stan Lee Saved the World video game will star Lee as a comics creator by day and superhero by night. What do you think?

1821 Comics and Lee also unveiled the cover of their coffee-table graphic novel, Romeo & Juliet: The War. The project was a collaboration between Lee, co-founder Terry Douglas, writer Max Work and artist Skan Srisuwan. The book will be available in stores on November 30th. Despite the fact that not too many lines from William Shakespeare’s original play have made it into the final project, Lee promises their updated version contains an “epic story.”

During the presentation, Lee gave a quick synopsis of the story behind this project: “The Montagues all have a special super power and the Capulets have a different super power. As in the Shakespeare story, they eventually go to war; Juliet belongs to one family and Romeo the other. You have the same story, but it’s projected into the future and the war is a big part of the story.” Romeo and Juliet has already inspired two popular books released in 2011: Stacey Jay‘s Juliet Immortal and Josephine Angelini‘s Starcrossed. Do you predict this graphic novel version will also do well? How do you think Shakespeare’s story will translate with the futuristic twist?

The Three Musketeers— A Thrill Ride!

The Three Musketeers is the latest film by Paul W S Anderson, writer and director of two Resident Evil films and the recent Death Race remake. If the thought of this man mangling an Alexandre Dumas novel is making your hair fall out, you might be surprised to hear that in plot terms, his version’s surprisingly faithful: Porthos (Ray Stevenson), Athos (Matthew MacFadyen) and Aramis (Luke Evans), along with their young disciple d’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), are sent to retrieve a diamond necklace belonging to the French Queen (Juno Temple), with the mysterious yet talented in the art of the sword Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) in tow.

The tone, however, is different. A well-balanced mixture of action pantomime, a thrill-infused pantone-gone-multi-colored steampunk comic, Anderson’s Musketeers is packed with flying galleons and hike ‘em-up bodices, both of which are exploited to the fullest by his colossal-cool 3D cinematography. Some films must engage you in a way that allows a vicarious plunge into another dimension, another time. And I believe we need to feel as though we too can swash-buckle and move with the sleek yet noble pace. It’s a thrill ride. Enjoy it!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Non-Existance of Time

So basically I came to the conclusion that time, as we know it, does not exist. To clarify, this post is directed toward the idea that time is not a dimension. I came to this conclusion because I realized that time is actually an arbitrary measurement. When you think of units of time, what do you think of? You think of seconds, or hours, or years or something along those lines. However, think about what a second is. A second is defined as 9,192,631,770 periods of radiation transition between two stages of a cesium 133 atom. A second is defined in terms of change of a physical construct. In that sense, it doesn’t have an absolute unit. This is really important to understand.

Consider the dimensions of space. 3 dimensions, three axis of movement. These axis can be measured using particles, particles that exist in all 3 dimensions. One inch in any direction is X particles. Fairly straightforward. When I tried to do the same for time, I realized nothing actually exists solely in time. If any particle were to exist solely in the dimension of time, it wouldn’t ‘be’ anywhere. Its possible to come up with a theoretical construct for something that exists only in 1 spacial dimension— a line. But what theoretical construct exists solely in time as we have been taught to unconditionally accept?

So that's when I began to think that time wasn’t a dimension. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. If time wasn’t a dimension, but rather a comparison of change between dimensions, it makes sense that time itself would be relative. Which means all experiences involving time are relative phenomena, which gives rise to the theory of relativity. The fastest possible object is the upper bound of time, the slowest possible object is the lower bound. In our universe, the bounds are the speed of light and absolute zero.

“Alright”, one might say, “if time isn’t a dimension, then why is there a past? Answer me that, young whippershnapper!” What intuition doesn’t reveal about this scenario is that the past is actually with us in the present. All your memories, everything you know about the past, is contained in the here and now in your brain. Your brain is constantly changing, taking pictures and cataloging information, creating a representation of the universe that you carry around with you. Everything you know about the past or think about the future, its all in the present. Which means that it’s not required that time be a dimension for things to be remembered as being in the past.

Furthermore, if time isn’t a dimension it solves a lot of paradox problems. For instance, you cannot travel through time because time doesn’t exist, which means all time travel paradoxes disappear. Also the variable of ‘space-time’, as far as physics is concerned, becomes shortened to just ‘space’. Philosophically, existence becomes simplified because you don’t have to worry whether something exists through time. You also don’t run into causality paradoxes involving time, because causality is no longer dependent on time. Time becomes a relative measurement when comparing the change of one object to the change of another. How many times does this oxygen molecule rotate for every rotation of this helium molecule? How many times does my leg flail about per earth rotation? What we think of as time is really just a standardized change comparison— we compare all space change to one particularly reliable space change, and then determine the relationship of different space changes to each other based on that comparison. Thus, time is only as consistent as the change you are comparing everything to.

This is just my point of view on the matter. This is a pretty complex idea, and I wasn’t able to go into the actual logical proofing of this concept and I probably won’t bother to try since there are so many physicists out there working on things like this. So whether I’m right or wrong, I guess only time will tell.