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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 google.com/+ 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.

Acheiving Happiness Without Pain

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who was born over 2300 years ago. One of his major concerns was discovering how to achieve happiness. That his ideas are still widely known today, says that quite a few people over time must have found them of benefit. His basic theory is that all good and bad things come from sensations. All pleasure is good, and all pain is bad. Therefore, in order to achieve happiness, we should try to maximize the amount of pleasure we experience. He contended that nothing in life has any value except that which can bring us pleasure. If we focus on maximizing our potential for happiness, then ultimately we'll reap the rewards of this focus. Of course, Epicurus wasn't dumb enough to believe that we should instinctively try to experience only pleasure and always avoid pain. We live in reality, after all. Instead, he thought we should try to fill our lives with as much pleasure as possible, while experiencing as little pain as humanly possible.

So something like taking drugs, for example, doesn't fit with this principle. Even though it may give immediate pleasure in the form of a high, drug-abuse causes us long-term pain because it introduces addiction, bad health, and confusion into our lives. Epicurus warned against overindulgence, in fact, because it often leads to negative consequences. Likewise, some work which we don't enjoy and causes us pain may often be worthwhile if it increases the amount of pleasure we experience in the future.

He divided pleasures into two types: moving and static. Moving pleasure occurs when we are in the process of satisfying a desire— such as eating when we're hungry. Static pleasure occurs after a desire is satisfied and so we are no longer in need. Static pleasures are generally the more enjoyable. When a person has unsatisfied desires, this is painful. When those desires are satisfied, they move into the state of static pleasure. He felt the worst killer of happiness is fear of the future, as it introduces pain in the form of fear. If someone can face the future with the utmost confidence, then they are more likely to be happy.

Since pleasure involves desires fulfilled, and pain desires denied, Epicurus thought a great deal about the nature of desire itself. In order to increase your pleasure, you can either strive to fulfill your desire, or eliminate it thereby removing it as a source of pain. At the core of the Epicurean philosophy is eliminating as many desires as you can, so your remaining wants are easy to satisfy and you'll attain a state of tranquility. To identify which wants should be eliminated, Epicurus divided them into three separate categories— natural and necessary wants, natural and unnecessary wants, and unnatural and unnecessary wants.

Natural and necessary wants include the basics such as food, shelter, safety and so on. These are generally easy to meet and almost impossible to eliminate. Finding enough food is fairly straightforward for most people, while going without it is impossible. For this reason, you should work to satisfy these desires. Natural and unnecessary wants include things like luxury goods such as fine dining. While food is necessary for survival, and a source of pleasure, we can do without luxury food such as caviar and foie gras. In fact, it's arguable whether these expensive goods give us any more pleasure than simple foods such as eggs on buttered toast.

Another example may be spending a weekend at a luxury resort, which takes a month of work for two days of pleasure. Is there really more pleasure to be had from this than a picnic is a public park on a sunny day, which is so cheap that it's essentially free? Epicurus wasn't against luxury goods under any circumstances. He thought we should consume them if they're easily available. Instead he felt the pain of gaining them often wasn't worth the pleasure of consuming them. Because of this, becoming dependent on such needs is a path to misery, as it creates more pain than pleasure.

Unnatural and unnecessary desires include power, wealth and fame. These are very difficult to satisfy and relatively easy to eliminate. No matter how much someone who desires these things has, it's never enough. The desire for food can be met in a few short minutes of eating, the hunger for money can remain for an entire lifetime without ever being satisfied.

Epicurus felt that these wants were not natural, but given to us by society and false beliefs. The more we possess, the more we have to worry about. Therefore, unnatural and unnecessary desires should be eliminated as much as possible. Ultimately the outcome of this philosophy is to simplify your life by reducing your wants. Less wants are easier to satisfy, so you'll achieve tranquility earlier and have to expend less pain getting there. Once you meet your most basic desires, the amount of pleasure to be gained from meeting further ones is minimal, and therefore not worth spending resources on obtaining.

For Epicurus, one of life's greatest pleasures was to be found in friendship. He felt that good friends were relatively easy to obtain, and bought an almost endless stream of pleasure. A grand mansion filled with luxuries but empty of company would bring much less pleasure than a small basic flat which was shared with true friends, according to this belief. Because of this, he advocated that the first thing anyone who aims to be happy should do is strive to find friends. Join a club, start a course, or play a sport in order to form connections with your fellow humans. A sure way to happiness is to spend more time socializing.

He extended his philosophy to say that fear of death is silly. He believed death was simply oblivion with no feelings. Because there was no pain involved, as you can't feel anything he said: "death is nothing to us". Overall, Epicurus is a very interesting philosopher and well worthy of his fame. His recipe is simple and obvious once understood. I wonder if the modern thinkers we so admire today will still be having their ideas discussed in 2300 years?

Overboard—Fun With an Endearing Twist

Real-life couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn star in this enjoyable 1987 comedy by Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) about an imperious heiress (Hawn) who loses her memory after a boating accident and is identified as the wife of a handyman (Russell). Russell's character brings her "home" to his messy house and unruly kids, and the laughs follow as the aristocratic Hawn tries fitting in. Marshall delivers the comic goods, the leads are entertaining (Russell needs to do more comedy), and the supporting cast is made up of happily familiar faces, including Roddy McDowall, Edward Herrmann, and Marshall favorite Hector Elizondo in an unbilled bit.

No matter how many times I watch this movie (and believe me, I've watched it many, many, many times) it's always enjoyable. Goldie Hawn stars as Joanna Stayton, an incredibly rich, incredibly bored and incredibly bitchy woman with nothing left to do while her yacht is docked at a small coastal Oregon town called Elk's Cove but to hire a carpenter named Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell, gotta love him) to remodel her closet. But when the job isn't done to her satisfaction, he winds up overboard along with all his tools. He vows to get revenge on her and the opportunity presents itself when Joanne falls overboard in the middle of the night and is later discovered by a crew of Portuguese men on a garbage barge. But Joanna has amnesia and can't remember who she is. And her husband Grant is all to happy to pretend he doesn't know her and leave her in the hospital. But when Dean sees the "amnesia lady" on the news, he recognizes Joanna and hatches a plan to get revenge and get the money she owes him. But neither one expects to fall in love with the other. Overboard is a fun and funny movie that also teaches us the lesson that money doesn't buy us complete happiness.

Nintendo Hits New York Comicon

When gaming and pop culture fans gather for the annual New York Comic Con— taking place October 13th to October 16th at the Javits Center in Manhattan— they’ll get a firsthand look at the wealth of exceptional video games and systems offered by Nintendo this holiday season. Show attendees will get a chance to play games such as The Legend of Zelda™: Skyward Sword for the Wii™ console as well as Super Mario™ 3D Land and Mario Kart 7™ for the Nintendo 3DS™ system. They’ll also be invited to take part in special activities to celebrate the upcoming release of the first Pokémon™ game created exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS system, Pokémon™ Rumble Blast, which arrives October 24th, and Professor Layton and the Last Specter™, which launches October 17th for the Nintendo DS™ family of systems.

Pokémon fans can participate in an expanded interactive experience at the nearby Pokémon Gaming Lounge on October 15th from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., located at Stage 37 at 508 West 37th Street (one block from the Javits Center). Pokémon Gaming Lounge visitors will enjoy hands— on game play with the Pokémon Rumble Blast game prior to its October 24th launch and participate in a wide array of activities highlighting the imaginative fun of the Pokémon franchise. Pokémon Rumble Blast is an action— packed Pokémon adventure and the first Pokémon game for Nintendo 3DS. The game lets players battle against more than 600 Toy Pokémon in full 3D without the need for special glasses. Planned activities include a Pokémon photo booth, oversized Pokémon AR Markers for the Pokédex™ 3D application, special appearances by Pikachu, Pokémon giveaways while supplies last and other fun Pokémon activities. The Pokémon Gaming Lounge will be free and open to the public.

On October 14th, Nintendo will host an exclusive screening of Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, an animated feature film based on the fan—favorite series of puzzle— based mystery games and distributed by VIZ Media. Beginning at 8:00 p.m. in Room 1B01 of the Javits Center, the event will include appearances by costumed characters, trivia contests and a chance for fans to play the Professor Layton and the Last Specter game, the fourth installment in the Professor Layton puzzle adventure series. This game is the earliest story in the series and tells the tale of the case that made Layton famous. Nintendo will also give special recognition to the winner of the Professor Layton and the Last Specter Quiz Challenge, a contest that was recently conducted via Twitter. The screening event will be open exclusively to registered New York Comic Con attendees with a valid conference pass.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Courtney Love Acts Out... Yet Again.

As strange as this all sounds, it's just yet another display of insanity from Courtney Love... who "would kill" Kurt Cobain if he were still alive. Now that's a twist. The Hole frontwoman admits she is still "mad" with her late husband— who committed suicide in 1994 when their daughter Frances Bean was just 20 months old— for his multiple attempts to end his life and battle with heroin addiction. Asked if she is angry with Kurt for killing himself, Courtney told Vanity Fair magazine: "Mad? Ya think?! If he came back right now I'd have to kill him, for what he did to us. I'd f%$king kill him. I'd f*#k him, and then I'd kill him. "He tried to kill himself three times. He OD'd at least five times. I was the f@!king E.M.S.[Emergency Medical Services] I was always sticking pins in his balls. I carried around Narcan [a drug used to revive heroin users]."

Courtney— who has been estranged from Frances since 2009— has repeatedly claimed she has been defrauded out of much of Kurt's money, but has also now insisted her financial problems began long before the rocker's death. She said: "We could never find our money. We had $135,000 in our bank account. They said that if he would go do Lollapalooza he would make $11 million. Do you think Kurt would have killed himself if he had known he had $54 million?"

All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate feel that this is a very disturbing display of "acting out" once again on Courtney Love's part. She NEVER addresses the countless questions surrounding Kurt Cobain's death which still remain unanswered. Let's face it, in 1994 "forensics" weren't exactly the science that they are now. Conspiracy theorists continue to insist that the case be reopened to bring forth various pieces of information that were allegedly "passed over and dismissed" by the officers at the scene of Cobain's suicide. There are thousands of "Justice For Kurt Cobain" web sites out there all of which contain some very provocative arguments as to what may or may not have happened to Kurt Cobain. But until the case is "officially" reopened... no one really knows why or how or anything else... but Kurt Cobain.

Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain's only child recently purchased her own home in West Hollywood. She turned 19 in late August, having inherited 37 percent of her father's estate in August of 2010. Although both her parents were constantly in the limelight, Frances Cobain has shied away from publicity and only recently reached the public eye with a few modeling shots and an art show. Reportedly, she turned down the roles of Bella in "Twilight" and Alice in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland." Frances is extremely aware of her status in terms of her iconic parents. "These people are fascinated by me, but I haven't done anything," she says. "If you're a big Nirvana fan, a big Hole fan, then I understand why you would want to get to know me, but I'm not my parents." Without dismissing the accomplishments of her folks (her father was dead before she was 2), Frances advises, "People need to wait until I've done something valid with my life." So what's next for Frances Bean? It's anyone's guess, but we're confident that whatever it is... we won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nirvana's "Nevermind" Turns 20

Twenty years ago, a naked baby diving after a dollar bill turned the rock world upside down, and Nirvana's absolute genius... "Nevermind", the record immortalized by so much more than just that image, became the soundtrack for a lost generation. "Nevermind's original release in late September of 1991 also sucked Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain into a whirlwind that he would not get out of alive.

Two decades on, Universal is marking the anniversary with the release Monday of a remastered box set of the album, complete with bonus tracks and demos. These include several pre-"Nevermind" recordings made at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, with Chad Channing at the drums— before Dave Grohl took over for the recording of the album, and Nirvana's distinctive sound took shape.

Another nugget: the so-called "Devonshire Mixes", a version of the album as it was originally mixed by the band's producer Butch Vig. Also featured is the film of a concert in Los Angeles on Halloween, a month after the album hit the shelves, possibly one of the last carefree moments before Nirvana realised they had shot through the barrier separating the indie rock world from the music mainstream. When the album came out, Nirvana was a minor punk-rock band, having released a first album "Bleach" on the Sub Pop indie label to a small audience.

Back in 1991, the rock world was dominated by "hair metal", a genre defined by the permed hairdos and long guitar solos of bands like Guns N' Roses. Nirvana's new label Geffen was caught off guard by the runaway success of "Nevermind", spurred by an enthusiastic MTV airing the video of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" virtually on a loop. The record company initially ordered 40,000 copies of the album. One million were sold in the first six weeks. To keep pace with demand, Geffen was forced to delay other releases to free up some serious space on its production lines. "Nevermind" went on to sell 30 million copies worldwide.

In the space of a few months, the world discovered a new concept: "grunge". Teenagers the world over let their hair fall in lank locks over their checkered lumberjack shirts, dreaming of Seattle, capital of Washington state and the cradle of the movement. Generation X, the millions of youths who had grown up in the shadow of the baby-boomers, unhappy with the cut-and-thrust values of the 1980s but facing uncertain economic times themselves, had suddenly found a voice. "'Nevermind' came along at exactly the right time," writes Michael Azerrad, in "Come as you are: The story of Nirvana."

"This was music by and for a whole new group of young people who had been overlooked, ignored or condescended to."

Monday, October 03, 2011

Breaking Bad Continues To Seek Closure

Last time on "Breaking Bad," Walt found himself in a hole. He got himself and his brother-in-law Hank in a car accident to delay a stakeout of the superlab grounds. His partner and his employer both despise him. Gus resents that Walt is effectively guiding the DEA in their direction. Lacking Jesse’s blessing to execute him, Gus took the troublemaker out to the desert and threatened to kill his family. Ted met his end in a home accident after Saul’s goons mailed away more than half a million dollars of Walt’s cash right to the IRS. Saul then alerted the DEA to a hit the cartel may or may not (read: doesn’t) have on Hank’s life.

As the penultimate episode of the season opens, the ambient static is still briefly audible, as if “Crawl Space” and “End Times” are to be watched without intermission. DEA agents arrive at the Whites’ to take them to the Schraders’ as a courtesy to Marie. In order to keep his family safe, Walt decides to stay away. Skyler is obviously opposed. Then, Walt delivers what I consider to be a rational revision of his “I am the danger” speech: “I have lived under the threat of death for a year now. Because of that, I’ve made choices… I alone should suffer the consequences of those choices. No one else. Those consequences are coming. No more prolonging the inevitable.”

Walt tells Hank he won’t be joining everyone because he needs to run the car wash. When Walter Jr. gets wind of this, he calls it a pathetic excuse. (With two conflicting paternal figures in his life, the kid has a right to be brash.) Marie is the most upset of anyone, but Hank doesn’t believe the threat’s authenticity for a minute. He’s an off-duty, wheelchair-bound self-starter with a pair of binoculars a la L.B. Jeffries. But two men from the Mexican cartel put him in that wheelchair.

Hank asks Gomez to scope out the laundry, as it may support his deep-seated— and dead-on— hunch that Los Pollos Hermanos is a front for the biggest meth distributor in the bottom left quadrant of the country. Gomez is skeptical but attempts a “knock-and-talk” anyway, telling the manager Dennis (played by stand-up comedian Mike Batayeh) a convoluted story of chefs, heroin and politics— which senator? —to gain entry. He snaps photos and has a dog sniff around the facility, just a floor above the superlab.

Jesse is cooking alone now, but has to keep quiet while Gomey snoops upstairs. Gus, watching the surveillance footage from his office, calls the lab to remind Jesse that the DEA search is a result of Walt’s actions. And Jesse reminds him that if “something final” occurs to his former partner, there will be a problem. “There will be an appropriate response,” Gus says. (Jesse smartly parks his car far, far away from the workplace.) At the Schrader home, Hank and Skyler receive word that the search came up empty.

Saul leaves a barrage of voicemail messages on Jesse’s phone. In lieu of Walt actually disappearing, Saul has decided to follow his own advice and skip town “for as long as it takes.” He informs Jesse that Gus’ actions in the desert led him to this. Jesse had no idea. Saul makes sure before he leaves he makes one more “Godfather” reference, telling Jesse to put in a good word for him with Gus, “for old time’s sake.” Can’t do it, Sally. At night, Andrea calls Jesse. She says Brock is in the hospital, stricken with a steadily worsening flu. He rushes to the hospital and consoles her. It’s refreshing to see him exhibit normal compassion. But when he goes outside for a cigarette, he notices one is missing— the lethal smoke containing the poison he and Walt cooked in the lab and intended for Gus. He tears up each cigarette and panics. Storming through the hospital corridors, Jesse finds Andrea and takes her to the not-so-private waiting room. Brock may have been poisoned with ricin, he warns, as the camera rotates around them.

Jesse goes to visit Walt, who is armed and has his door barricaded. Walt explains what went down in the desert, and Jesse is at first sympathetic but that’s a decoy. Jesse takes the gun and shoves it in Walt’s face. He accuses Walt of poisoning Brock, because only two people on Earth knew about that cigarette, right? It was in his pack that morning, and he played video games with Brock the night before. Jesse guesses that Walt sought revenge and had Saul do it. He moves closer with the gun, pushing Walt to the ground. A light bulb turns on in Walt’s head, activating that obnoxious laugh… He theorizes that Tyrus (Ray Campbell, his first time credited as a guest star and not an end-titles player) lifted the cigarette from his locker at the superlab. Not only does Gus have cameras everywhere, he also condones the murder of children (that much is surmised from last season’s penultimate episode), Walt reasons. If Jesse willfully carries out the deed, Gus’ hands stay clean and Walt fades away. Jesse is so swayed by this rationale that he’s ready and willing to jump into the car and go about assassinating.

“I’m going to do this one way or another, Mr. White,” he says. “Then, let me help,” Walt says. Jesse spends the night at the hospital even though Andrea won’t permit him to see Brock. Tyrus tells him he must go back to work, or a full batch will be ruined. Jesse says he doesn’t care; he’s not leaving. When Tyrus accosts him, he shouts for security. Tyrus may need a refresher course on social norms after spending every day tailing people and brooding in a culinary crypt of crystal meth.

Meanwhile, in Walt’s camp, it’s D-Day. He’s cooking a bubbly blue substance on the stove and testing an explosive electronic chip that detonates with a walkie-talkie. Jesse texts him: “Think I got his attention.” Gus and a bodyguard arrive at the hospital, meeting with Jesse in a basement chapel of sorts. (Note: Mike’s fill-in is a much younger, healthier-looking man.) Gus can’t afford to waste time running a superlab when the overhead costs are so high. He says Jesse can return to the hospital when his work is complete. Jesse says he can’t abandon a dying little boy. Gus, acting like the boy’s sickness was of natural causes, offers to use his standing on the hospital board to recommend top doctors. Brock was poisoned and the doctors don’t know how, says Jesse. This is enough to change Gus’ tune. Jesse is permitted to stay with the boy and return when ready.

Gus, Tyrus and the bodyguard walk to their Volvo on the parking deck’s fifth floor with a sense of mistrust. Walt spies with binoculars from a rooftop across the street. He is ready to press the trigger on the walkie-talkie and watch his boss go down in a car explosion like Apollonia. Gus stops and looks out on the city; Walt ducks. Sensing someone tampered with the car, the men retreat to the ground floor of the deck, and maybe catch a cab? Walt is devastated by the failure. He needs to get a grip, more than the tape on his nose does. Planting bombs, spying from rooftops, cooking blue substances at home? This is a new stage of madness for Walt amid dire circumstances. He and Saul are the only ones speaking of “end times” as a dangerously approaching finale of doom, and, hopefully, that means some closure.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thoughts on Highlander Reboot Part 1

Summit Entertainment has confirmed that its number one choice for the helm of the new Highlander film is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Fresnadillo most recently directed Intruders— which was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival— and is also set to direct The Crow reboot. While Fresnadillo has not officially accepted, he had expressed interest previously, so there is little chance he'll turn down this great opportunity. Highlander spent several years in development hell until this summer when the company decided that it was time to pull it off the shelf. The push to get the Highlander film out likely stems from Summit’s need to get another fantasy franchise going now that Twilight is finished. The Highlander script was written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway and recently updated by Melissa Rosenberg— who also worked with Summit on the final versions of the Twilight scripts. Neal H. Moritz and Peter S. Davis are producing. Highlander is currently set to arrive in theaters sometime in 2012, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was pushed forward to the 2013 blockbuster season.

All of us here at UPBEAT Entertainment News Syndicate aren't very enthused about the reboot and we've made that abundantly clear on several occasions. Some films are better left alone and this is one of them. The original starred Christopher Lambert and regardless of the fact that CGI wasn't at the top of its game at the time, the film had what Lambert's character would say, "Magic." It was easy to understand why it has been a "cult classic" for several years.

But if we are forced to [and as always, we are] to see the reboot then we hope that the casting will be dead on as well as the script. Actors Colin Farrell, Alex O'Loughlin and Joe Manganiello [True Blood's Alcide] would be our only choices for the brooding immortal Connor Macleod of the clan Macleod. As for the lead actress, we would love to see Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Michelle Gellar or Keira Knightley, all of which could "easily" make the role into something very powerful. The Kurgan could only be played by Tyler Mane who was last seen as Michael Myers in the Rob Zombie Halloween films. This actor is massive and menacing and would take The Kurgan beyond evil. As for the rest of the cast, we do have more choices but we'll continue that again soon.