Friday, December 23, 2011

Acoustic Goodness with Boyce Avenue

Boyce Avenue has been covered here before. But they are such as talented force, I felt compelled to write about them again. Mainly because I've kept listening to them. They excel in what ever song they attempt but are especially so with acoustic versions of other artists. Some songs like Take That's Back for Good are good acoustically but don't really add or expand from the song's original sound. Here is where Boyce Avenue are geniuses. They understand how a song should sound acoustically and how to arrange and sing them, even if it means changing the sound of the original song. They do this and the song sounds even better. Take One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful. They distill the song to it's essence and made it sound rich and deep.

Now if you tried to listen to the original after that... well, you just can't. I felt robbed. So many people were deprived of a great song.

So turn down the lights, turn up the volume, snuggle up, put on the Boyce Avenue Acoustic Covers playlist and press shuffle. Over 5 hours of smooth sounds and songs that you remember and love. Sometimes even better.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Fade Away: A Son's Journey

Starring: Mischa Barton, Ryan Kwanten, Beau Bridges, Ja Rule
Category: Drama, Romance
This is a beautiful, powerful drama on life, love, friendship and the business of living. Jackson is a music executive losing his star client, survives a mugging and finds out that his father is dying. Already having lost his mother, Jackson realizes what is important in life and decides to do the right thing. He drops everything and goes home to Asheville, North Carolina (which according to IMDB has seen quite a number of movies made there). But Asheville is in the sticks and far removed from LA, where Jackson is calling home now.
He is at a crossroads in his life but decides that taking care of his father is more important than taking a fork in that road. He puts off his life and decides to face some of the history he has left behind. His father's mortality has him re-evaluating his life up to that point. Whatever doubts he expresses, his father has great faith in him and is proud of him nonetheless.
Jackson reluctantly reconnects with old friends and old wounds are re-opened. Jackson meets Kat, a girl who worked at his father's office and is drawn to her as she is to him. He can't understand why she would be interested in him other than having a common love for his father. But time ultimately draws them inevitably closer and soon he has to make a decision, to take one of the forks in the road of his life journey. I won't spoil the ending because for some people, they wished the movie would have just ended there. The director/writer has all right to end it any way he wishes. But the way he chooses to end it shows what the movie is or who it's for. 
Acting was great all around. But Ryan Kwanten and Mischa Barton's really stood out. Ryan's acting signals clearly that he is leading-man material. His character showed genuine remorse and concern for his father. Always underneath whatever he was doing, was his concern about his job and his career. It surfaces and clashes with Kat's carefree but meaningful outlook on life and that is how they first connect. Kat, while seemingly carefree, carries her own burden. She realizes who she has become and feels powerless to stop it. Yet with Jackson, she finds a kindred spirit, someone who is also dealing with his demons that threaten to derail his life. Together they find solace and strength.
Supporting cast also didn't let the story down, living their characters as if they had been so all their lives.
The movie has two things going for it other than lead actors. First, it had an interesting story structure. It is a story of coming home to find oneself. But also is also a reflection of sorts into the past. There are flashbacks that seem strange and dream-like. As the movie progresses, it seems like the story is breaking apart at the seams and at the end it looks like it's taking a different turn. But the twist in the end ties it all up together. It's just not what the audience expects and hopes. Second, it features great music. Sometimes it would "bleed" into the story. You would think that the music is background music and suddenly the character would point it out or make a comment on it. It happens quite a few times that you become more aware of the music and songs.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Sweet Karma: Action Indie Movie

Starring:  Shera Bechard  Category: Action
If you've been reading this site for some time, you would notice that I don't review action movies that much. Not that I don't watch them. But most of the time they fall into two broad categories, Hollywood and low-budget. Hollywood types are those that are full of crazy, expensive, over-the-top action and a simple enough plot to follow along and seem interesting. Low-budget of course are the B-movies and where blood is spilled by the pint-load. Add a dash of intrigue and it would be more of a thriller or mystery. Add a bit of comedy and it'll more funny than bang-bang. Most of the time there is nothing interesting to write about either of them. They may be a good ride but there is nothing to take away with you once it's done.
There are notable exceptions to the first category. Comedy and action are just at the right mix in Die Hard. The Bourne series capture the even more elusive mix of action and mystery. And then there is Hot Fuzz, mixing action, comedy and mystery in almost equal amounts. Most of the action is at the tail end of the movie, though and it does have the advantage of being in awe of and drawing inspiration from other action movies.
Basically, an action movie has to be special for me write about it. It has to fall outside of the two broad categories or be interesting enough to write about. It has leave an impression.
Which brings me to Sweet Karma. It is one of those movies other people tell me I should check out. I watch more than my fair share of crappy movies and feared the worst. I put it off for fearing it was the result of a few rednecks with a camera trying to get away with a Saturday Night Special (pun intended). After watching it, I wasn't sure what movie I had watched. But I was sure I had just watched a star being born. 
The movie starts with Russian girl Karma being duped into a job in Canada by the recruiting agent for a human trafficking syndicate. I use the term loosely because it's not really human trafficking if you are utilizing the "workforce" yourself. It's worse because basically it's kidnapping for prostitution. Then it gets interestingly confusing because Karma lands in the promised land of maple and honey but does not get corralled with the other girls. The Russian mob are not looking for her either. We then find out she is really seeking revenge for the death a girl that was previously duped by these people. And that she killed the recruiting agent after she got her papers. Thus begin the killing spree.
If that were just the movie then it would have fallen into the B-grade low budget action movies. But more twists and turns come up. The narrative shifts time moving from the present to the past with slightly confusing flashbacks. It moves the plot along and provides more information at the same time. The dead girl turns out to be her sister. Karma is also not a trained professional nor does she transform into one right after her first kill. That is squarely Hollywood territory. She is nervous. She messes up, gets caught twice. Some more twists follow. More killing and graphic scenes of violence. All leading to a, let's call it "eventful", ending.
For all the movie's faults, it was made up by lead actress Shera Bechard's brilliant acting. She was so good that at times her acting looked out of place with the other actors. They would look okay doing a scene together but then Karma walks in and suddenly they looked bad by comparison. Did I mention Karma was mute? So Shera had to really act to convey her emotions and thoughts. Her facial expressions and her body language had to make up for the missing dialogue. Sometimes looking at her eyes, you would know what is going on in her head. I think this also had the added effect of the audience having to relate closer with her, to get what she was trying to get across. The audience would have to pay close attention to her to better understand what was going on. Which they had to because of the various twists and turns. No exposition on who was who. In Hollywood movies, there is a conscious effort to introduce the key characters, so that the audience can follow. This doesn't happen in this movie. Some characters look alike enough for me to get confused. And a minor character at the beginning suddenly becomes a key character half-way through the movie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the New of TV: The Bad

Unfortunately, there are so many hours in a day to watch all these shows. Plus summer is a bust because there are new shows and episodes in the summer too. So some show have to go. Some are sad to say good-bye to but others I am glad to kick the habit of.
  • CSI:Miami - It just got too much at the start of the season. Sure, it has more action, but that is not why the CSI series is so popular. Whatever the heart of the series was, its gone. Emily Proctor looks tired and overworked. This could be a story-line plot behind it but I'm not seeing it. Plus, I get tired of other people making mockery of David Caruso's sunglasses-yeaah routine. It's now the cultural shorthand for absurd and self-delusional. I don't need to see the real thing week in and week out. In one episode last season, he entered a hostage situation with a vest and holding those sunglasses. I'm sorry if people are offended thinking I am making fun of albinism and photophobia. That could explain why Horatio Caine is unable to tan and why he needs those glasses in a hostage situation.  
  • The Amazing Race - After watching so many races, ironically, it is the fatigue that killing this for me. 
  • How I Met Your Mother - The series is at the same point for me when I stopped watching Friends. Although both were still popular at this point, the uniqueness of the series was lost. It seems to repeat itself. Story-lines and characters become predictable. What ever it was that made it endearing is gone. It is as if the writers were just aiming for the quick and sure-fire laughs. The guys have been acting out for so long that they stopped being quirky and become annoyingly juvenile. Someone should also put those kids listening to the story out of their misery. At the beginning of the series, their dad's story made him look like he was being wise, relate-able and that he was passing them wisdom. By now, he looks like a douche to them. My suggestion? Do a pivot by ending Ted's story, show who the mother is (and add a new character) and begin Barney's by bringing in his kids. This is a more interesting angle than figuring out who Ted ends up marrying.
  • NCIS - I can't stop thinking that Mark Harmon is the luckiest guy on TV. He is totally into the character that it makes you forget the various major parts he played in other series. Kudos for the series writers not tipping a hat to any of them. But again, it feels like it's stuck in plot-of-the-week rut. The series needs to evolve. Then again, it may just be biding time. It is the top of the charts, though. But that could be just the fans tuning in hoping for something good. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the New of TV: The New

This season, it seems like there are a lot of new shows. I waited for a few episodes to pass by before saying anything. I feel like not talking about shows that don't make it because it will be another Love Bites all over again. So frustrating. Here are the new shows I am watching in no particular order.
  • Person of Interest - Jesus with a gun. Jesus kicks butt. The saviour saveth the damned and the guilty alike. He is the right arm of god and while the other guy used to think he was. I could go on and on but I'll spare you the more cornier taglines. Whatever the reason is, people love watching Jim Caveziel save people; either all at once or one at a time. And the creepy guy from Lost is back in the shadows pushing buttons, just where we like him to be. It got creepier last week because he crossed into the area of the consequences of changing fate. 
  • Whitney - The first episode was a bit too loud, both in terms of music and characters but it got better. It pushed the wrong buttons initially with me but by the third episode, its found a solid footing to build on. Definitely this year's quirky-sexy sitcom in the tradition of Friends and How I Met Your Mother. For once, it is not set in New York but in Chicago. But since most of it is on set, you won't notice the difference. This situations that the characters find themselves in are both unsettling and funny. One to watch. 
  • The New Girl - Zooey Deschanel's shtick is cute in movies and the directors usually tame it within the context of the story and with editing and directing limits. It works great that way. I'm not sure it should be unleashed to its full force weekly. Partly, the problem is her co-stars. I'm sorry, but you have to bring your A game to go up against Zooey and her energy. Every week. Right now they are just two-dimensional, over-sized adolescents. Not in a funny way. While she is alive and quirky, the other characters seems bland and often cartoony. It has gotten a pick-up but I think unless things change, this could be a single season series.
  • 2 Broke Girls - Kat Dennings is in her element as a smart-mouthed waitress (the other type being the waitress with the heart of gold) who takes in the privileged daughter of a rich embezzler. Her father's assets are frozen so all that she has left is what hers. Which is just her wits (and often lack of). They both want to open a bakery and are saving up for it. It is a nice mix of street-smart humor and fish-out-water situations. Strangely enough, there are depths to the main character that are revealed regularly and makes the series stand above others. 
  • Unforgettable - Think of Psyche without the humor. Falls into the "crime solving with a super power" category. Poppy Montgomery is Carrie Wells, a detective with the ability to remember details from any day of her life. Although not the center of the series, it does act as a key feature. She is drafted by he ex-boyfriend to help him in difficult cases. The nice thing about this series is that it has several running themes: the leads past relationship and their near flirtations, a long-running arc about Carrie's search for the person who killed her sister and Carrie's relationship with her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. I just can't get it out of my head how similar Carrie is to Olivia from Fringe. 
  • Prime Suspect - Gritty cop series with a less than cordial squad room. I think they were aiming for House with guns. At the center is a unlikeable but efficient detective, who solves the difficult cases. Constantly with a chip on her shoulder, she gets what she wants at almost no thought to others.
  • Terra Nova - Family-centric drama set in the pre-historic times of Earth. It's great that they spend more time on the family drama than the whole adventure aspect. Haven't seen much yet. But good actors, quality scripts and a strong storyline will make this a one to savor. 
  • Hart of Dixie - Medical student Zoe Hart is forced to move Alabama and do General Practice for a year by her professor when he points out her terrible soft skills (bedside manners, interviewing skills). She is about to give up when finds out that the practice she has inherited is from her real father and decides to stay. Full of typical fish-out-of-water scenarios, this soft-focus series on life in the South has it's charms but is still feeling about its ways. At first more Doc Holywood than anything else, then taking a lesson-of-the-week format, it needs to bring those long story arcs into the forefront to make it stand out.
There'll be more on each series as the season progresses.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

9 : Hard Movie to Dislike But Must

Starring (Voice): Elijah Wood, John C. Reily, Christopher Plummer, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau
Category: Sci-Fi, Drama
9 is a post-apocolyptic movie with a twist. It's unlike most movies of the genre, where a group of people survives a global holocaust (usually nuclear) and tries to survive and rebuild. In this movie, nobody survives. At least, no humans.
It is a world where humans fought machines and the humans lost. However, the devastation was so complete that the machines themselves were nearly wiped out. What survived are small mechanical dolls that are as much alive as they are machines. They have name/numbers given to them by their Creator who is also apparently a Scientist. He made them unique in a way and obviously had plans for them although they rarely acknowledge his existence.
It is a hauntingly beautiful world. There is beauty in the stillness of post destruction, amongst the debris and carnage left behind. It is this world that the mechanical doll with the number 9 wakes up to. And it is in this world he is thrown into a quest he does not fully understand but knows he must take. 9 is driven by his sense of what is right but he is not at all righteously pretentious. That mantle is 1's. 9 is brought to 1 and discovers other dolls like him. This is after he survives an attack by a cat-like machine. In that attack, 9 is saved by 2, the first doll he encounters. The cat-machine takes 2 instead and 9 knows he must rescue 2. It is his first quest of many that becomes the thrust of the movie.
The world of 9 is very atmospheric yet keeps a unique look to it. It still looks at times like a beautiful painting. A beautiful painting of a devastated world. The action sequences in the movie are frantic and is shot with the best of them, with vista shots and pulls to show the scale and speed of the fight. I can go on and on about the visual aspects of the movie. Unfortunately, I can't do the same to the story.
Where do I begin? The stereotypical characters were uncalled for. Not for the depth of the actors involved in providing the voices. Christopher Plummer is unmistakable as 1 and Elijah is yet on another quest as 9. But beyond them, there is not much depth. Although the other dolls have their own interesting, unique characters, they need a wee bit more character development for the movie to work on a higher level. I wish the director focused less on the scenery and put more work on the characters.
The movies also hints at a potentially deep back story. The world before the apocalypse could be understood from the perspective of 9 who is constantly adapting to it as he is learning his way around.. However, the background and the way it is explained away too thoroughly leaves little to the imagination. The mystery of the world is lost to us as all questions are answered through explanations and vignettes. It deprives the story of it's mystery and scale. What could have been rich with possibilities is exposed a flat and predictable.
The strange and ambiguous ending also didn't help it's cause. I understood the role of pseudo-science and alchemy in the story to explain the existence of the dolls. But the ending and it's use to explain the survival of the world seems out of place and a bit jarring. I understood the "physical-renewal-through-spiritual renewal" angle the story was trying to push. But that need to push it instead of making it come naturally, makes the ending feels forced. In the end, the viewer is neither gifted with an uplifting ending nor does it make it clear that  a renewal is happening to the audience. I may have understood it but the fact I had to explain it to the people watching it with me is the reason why the movie didn't take off as it deserved.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Triangle Fire: or is it mis-fire?

I found it odd watching this documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and then seeing the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement. These two events, although seamlessly unrelated, are actually much closer than we think. The common thing about them is the story of the struggle of the common people against those who put pursue wealth above everything else.
The documentary is not so much about the fire and the aftermath. It is rather about the movement and strikes for better conditions and unionization that came before it. The documentary talks about the social conditions of the workers. It describes their lives in early 20th Century New York. The documentary also goes into the aspirations of the workers and why they migrated to America. This sets us up for us to better understand the motivations of the workers. It also is partly to juxtapose it against the tragedy itself.
That is where the documentary falls apart. It does not say that the tragedy could have been avoided had the efforts of the strikes succeeded but it does go a long way to suggest that demands for better conditions were not all achieved and that had something to do with the tragedy. In fact, even if all of the workers' demands were met, that wouldn't have prevented the fire. Success of the strike wouldn't have changed the conditions that led to the tragedy. What would have changed the conditions? Either an enlightened factory owner, aware of the humanity of their workers or specific laws defining the rights of workers for a safe workplace. Guess which one is more likely?
The documentary goes into this narrative mode, where we are presented with the musings of the workers. It gives an insight into their thinking. It makes us understand what the workers were going through. However, I have my doubts that the narrative is factual. Some could have been culled from other workers in other factories. That is ok when talking about the general condition of society and describing the New York of the era. But then the narrative continues into the event itself and some of the narrative were just impossible to have been written because they describe the writer's ultimate demise.
That takes the documentary into a grey area. It is a legitimate documentary at times because of the experts who were providing insight and information. It presents little known facts about the strike efforts. It even discusses the relationship between the women's suffrage movement and the strikers. But when it ventures into the often dramatic narrative, it begins bordering on non-fiction. It this a non-fiction documentary? It has too much drama that threaten the documentary's legitimacy.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Conscience of a Liberal: Behind the Occupy Wall Street movement

It has been one month since the Occupy Wall Street movement began. It is now spreading and gaining national attention. Although the news on TV focuses on the mixed messages the movement seems to be sending out, the real story nobody is asking is where did the movement originated.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is born out of a certain form of dissatisfaction. Specifically, it is born of disenfranchisement. It is a feeling of being left out. It's the feeling you get when you think what should be yours is denied. Rightly or wrongly is not the question of disenfranchisement. It is perception as well as in actual fact. You can feel disenfranchised when you think a right that you think is yours is taken away from you. Like the right to text while driving. Or like the right to vote. Some feelings of disenfranchisement are justified while others are not.
I am going to expand the definition of what this blog is for. I did this in a way when I did the post on TWiT because in reality I listen to TWiT more than I watch it. This post is about something you can only listen to, an audiobook. This audio book is an unabridged version of the book The Conscience of a Liberal or The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming America from the Right by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Read by Jason Culp, this book begins by explaining the history behind the recent, as in past 100 years, events in the economy, society and the political process as seen by the author. It is his narrative and his conclusions. The book lays out what it sees as the condition of the society at the time the book was written and draws up arguments to explain how it got to that point. It goes into great detail about it's arguments. It supports them with facts and figures that rarely require re-interpretation by the author. I don't agree with all of them but you have to respect an argument backed by facts and figures. If you can accept Freakanomics and it's conclusions from those statistics, this is a shorter leap and lot easier to understand.
This is not an academic text. There is a strong narrative, a story being told. The language is simple to understand and told in a fashion that draws you into their argument. Rather than offering a narrative that tries to invoke emotional responses from you to make you agree with the author, he offers logic and reasoning and a lot of history. It is not like the story won't invoke an emotional response.The picture he draws is of how the country has been hijacked, politically and economically by a small group of people with a very specific agenda. He talks about income inequality and the runaway rich. He describe the rise of a self-sustaining system to ensure that the rich become richer at the expense of everyone else while controlling the political process, the one force that is able to counter their influence effectively. It makes us think whether we want to or not. What is chilling is that if we look around, the book describes the world we live in right now.
The book is far ahead of it's time. It is relevant today and you can draw a line from where the books ends to the unregulated and ultimate near-collapse of Wall Street in 2008 to the Occupy Wall Street movement. This book clearly illustrates where the feeling of disenfranchisement comes from and comes about while emphasizing the reality of that source.

I never have read the book before and I am glad. Without the amazing and interesting reading by Jason Culp, I might not have made it to the end. If the voice sounds vaguely familiar, Jason Clup's father is Robert Culp of the Greatest American Hero fame and many outstanding roles on TV series and movies. His reading makes the book sound like an interesting extended lecture. A lecture given by someone who knows what is talking about, passionate about it and wishes to share the knowledge and passion with you.
Listening to this book enables you to understand why Paul Krugman sound like he does in his newspaper columns. It explains the history of the American society, mainly about the economy and politics in a way that no political TV commercial could capture. Politicians understand that we are so used to commercials for information. They assume that we find anything else hard to understand. However, some things just takes time to explain because it is just complex.
What is frightening is that the book depicts the society that this small group of people are working for, the return of the Long Gilded Age. And if no action is taken by the masses, this is where we will be headed. The books shows the origins of disenfranchisement but also shows how it can be created to motivate a group of people to act. It shows of how politicians take advantage of change to create a sense of disenfranchisement and channel that energy towards their own causes and continued election success. 
In a way, the polar opposite of the Occupy Wall Street movement is the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party is in fact a reformation of the anti-Obama groups with the christian conservatives. They hide behind a common show of hatred torwards the government. Guess what? They feel or being told they should feel disenfranchised. This feeling, fanned by political rhetoric, spurred people against the government. The book talks about how politician gained control over similar feelings of disenfranchisement in the past. It explains that it is not about ideology but specific actions suggested by politicians. The blind implementation of these actions regardless of consequence results in unintended outcomes. What the people don't realize is that the message they receive from these politicians has been carefully crafted to gain their support. But once in power, these ideas are discarded for the true agenda. Often the result is an increase in disenfranchisement towards minorities and the middle class. I wouldn't be too far to say that the their true goal may just be the eventual creation of a citizen class vs civilian class, those who can vote vs those who can just live here, those who have power and those who will always be without (or at least not without a cost or being co-opted with those in power). 
The Tea Party rode on the feelings of disenfranchisement to put themselves in power and then turned around and sought to create a wider gap between them and their the general public. The efforts to roll back Union and Voter rights and the effort to remove government regulations on business are the results. The books talks about the anti-union, anti-voter right and pro-business results in other efforts in the past, showing that while the Tea Party is new, their agenda is not. 
What is strange, once you have heard the book, is how it proves general prosperity is so closely tied to the prosperity of the middle class. If this is so, why the strong effort to hold the middle class down? The answer is right there: general prosperity is not the goal of the Tea Party and their partners. It is really about making people work and pay without giving them political power, a new form of taxation without representation. This time the taxing is being done by large corporations who pull the strings of politics in Washington. The last bastion is the election of the president. This is where the people have the most direct effect on the nation.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is driven also by this strong feeling of disenfranchisement. This time it is the feeling of losing the ability to contribute and participate in the democracy (at least enough to take effect). This impending voting restrictions makes it feel worse. Is is also driven by the feeling of losing the ability to participate in the country's economic prosperity. How is this so when everybody says the economy is in the toilet? Because they are still people making money and becoming and remaining rich. And where are those people? In Wall Street.
So the goal of the Occupy Wall Street should be the polar opposite of the Tea Party: achieve general prosperity. Efforts to do so will help dissipate the feelings of disenfranchisement and strangely enough, as the book points out of events in the past, will make people feel less inclined to both politicians.
This books makes you think. And that is a Good Thing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Good Guy: Definitely Not

Starring: Alexis Bledel, Scott Porter, Bryan Greenburg
Category: Drama
How would you market a movie about something that everybody hates? Find that redeeming quality and shine a light on it, darkening everything else? Focus on an angle that would make it appeal to the widest audience to get the most number of people through the door on opening day?
This movie is hard to like because it is about stockbrokers and the lives that they lead. It is harder to like because it came out after the crash of the market. What made it almost impossible to like is that it is about the type of people who would give themselves bonuses after being bailed out by the government because of a problem they created. Even if the movie was partly true, it would have made people upset. Problem is, it probably just scratched the surface because it focused on the traders lives, which are extravagant themselves, rather than their bosses.
Beth (Alexis Bledel) is in a relationship with Tommy, an experienced stockbroker. She is introduced to Daniel, an up and coming broker who Tommy has decided to take under his wing. Tommy wants Daniel to be one of the guys. Why? Maybe he saw a part of himself in Daniel. And wants to beat that part of out him.
Needless to say that the movie is really about Tommy. It begins with a seemingly heartfelt moment when he goes and begs for Beth. We then get to see the events leading to that moment. Needless to say, it is not what it seems to be. Tommy begins the movie as the Good Guy. He seems like it. He is nice to Beth. He vouches for Daniel. But he has an agenda. To understand what Daniel wants to be, you have to look at Cash, Tommy's boss and idol. He is on his way to becoming Cash.
The other characters were largely supporting and stereotypical. I will admit I watched this because of Alexis Bledel. Anna Chlumsky of My Girl is in it too. The movie tries hard to be one of those selling New York as a great place to live and work. What made the movie worst is that it literally shows us that New York is a great place to live and work if you got the cash. Which was Tommy's problem at the beginning/end of the movie.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Charlie Valentine. Mob movie unfinished

Starring: Raymond J. Barry, Michael Weatherly
Category: Action
It is a story of an aging mob enforcer who has no qualms as to who he is nor what he does. He knows he is just a thug in nice clothes. There is no pretense of glamour. He likes the life though. The money, the girls. He understands that his skill for violence is a tool and does not let it consume him. He appreciates that his style and the image of the mobster is attractive to some but shrugs them off knowing well that the image is not real. He knows that he is a survivor and that the most important thing to him is to keep living, to keep surviving. Deep inside, he knows he is a coward.
He decides to hit his boss for that last score to go off and retire. He gives specific instructions to not carry guns which everyone in his team ignores. Although an odd request, he knows that if they get caught without guns, they may be in for a beating but will probably live to see another day. It goes wrong and everyone but him is killed. He makes a run for it with his 'retirement plan': His boss's prize Cobra sportscar. With no place to go, he reconnects with Danny, his son. Danny is a former convict who idolizes his father. He works for Ferucci a low level mobster running a strip club. Finding a new lease on life and being in the odd position of being looked up to, he begins to groom his son into his image.
But is he redeeming himself? He may be reconnecting with his son but he is bringing him deeper into the underworld. Charlie teaches him reluctantly at first but is energized by his enthusiasm. He knows he has made all the wrong choices but will he let his son see them as the right ones?
This low budget mob movie is gritty and focuses on the reality of a mobster. It strips away the glamour and polish, leaving the violence and broken lives of the people living by crime. The violence is graphic and obviously where most of the budget went. I never though I'd ever say this but they should have spent a bit more on the set. The locations were great. There warehouse where Rocco makes his office is a telling reality of his life. The cash he deals with maybe a lot but it doesn't buy him the luxury you would expect a mobster at his level would have. But that is reality. In a crime organization, only the top tier live anything close to the mobsters in Scorsese movies. Rocco may collect a lot of cash, but he has to hand it up to his bosses as well as to pay for the people around him (who pay others below them). I guess that is why respect, another form of currency, is so valued.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Flinged My PhoneArena Review!

I haven't bought a new phone in ages and it was time to get a new one. My sputtering Nokia was hardy and built to last. But I was longing for an Android phone but wasn't sure which one. On the net there were tons of reviews from god know where. Everybody has an opinion but what I was looking for was the proof. Anyone can say is a phone is crap so I wanted to see for myself. I wanted to see it in action.
I found a such a site in PhoneArena, specifically it's YouTube channel. It provides a good write-up. But the proof is in the pudding. So I found the phone I was interested in and watched the reviewer put the phone through it's paces.
They even have side by side comparisons so that you can take a look at two similar phones
I recommended to a friend the website. We wanted to see the video review but the netbook I had with me made the video a bit smaller. In fact, the size of the phones in the demo were smaller than the actual size.
Then I remembered that the WDTV box I had came with flingo. Flingo is a content service provider that offers content from other content providers. Some of them are great (Revision3, CrunchRoll) while others just rehashing trailers and PSAs (FOX, WB). But it also offers a service to "fling" videos from the PC to TV.
Just go to and save the button there to your bookmarks toolbar. Then go to a video streaming site, like YouTube and drag to video to the bookmark.
However, normal content restrictions still apply. You could see a video on the PC but the moment you flung it to the TV, don't be surprised if it can't play because the content owners said no.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Tech News Today & TWIT - Getting your (daily) tech fix

Starring: Tom Merrit, Sarah Lane, Iyaz Akhtar, Darren Kitchen and Jason Howell
Category: News
I was a big fan of TechTV despite discovering it just before it got gobbled up by G4. I watched re-runs of the ScreenSavers and CallForHelp with Leo Laporte not only because of the tech content but because it was done so well. For once, tech shows that rise above the cable public-access quality and lasted more than a few minutes. It was not only a good tech show, it was a good show. Entertaining and informative. It didn't look down on the audience but instead got them involved.

But it was not to last as the G4TechTV basically gutted the tech content in favor of games and testosterone-orientated shows. The TV executives wanted the TechTV viewers (which were in the millions, according to Wikipedia) but not the shows, apparently. Which is bizarre because aren't people watching because of the shows? Is there any surprise that the viewers like me left when their favorite shows were cancelled? It was apparently a surprise to the executives at G4.

After that, combined with the dilution of other tech news websites and periodicals, I lost interest in tech journalism altogether, finding tech news to be too much marketing, very little information. I began a long distrust of technology journalism as the articles I came across were either too biased, too opinionated and one-sided and too copied from a press release. In fact, the only tech magazine I regularly read is Linux Format and the occasional Wired Magazine.
I few months back I got a WDTV Live. One of the Internet content services that came bundled with the box is MediaFly. I loved watching NBC Nightly News on it because it was like watching it on demand whenever I wanted instead of having to sit there waiting. It also had a Technology section where I found This Week in Tech, where Leo Laporte hosts a roundtable talk show on the latest in technology and trends. The first episode I watched, he had John C. Dvorak, Steve Gibson and Jerry Pournelle, tech personalities from the  early days of (my) computing. It was both nostalgic and interesting, as they have lost none of the edge they displayed back in the day. In fact, I don't remember Dvorak being so snarky. However the format was over an hour long and bit too involved. I found that it was a good watch to sit down with but not so much to accompany me for the day. I tend to stop and focus on the discussion going on. Don't get me wrong. I still watch it but only when I can.
Browsing through the Technology section, I found an entry for Tech News Today. What attracted to me first was one of it's hosts was Sarah Lane, another TechTV alumnus. She hosts the show with Tom Merrit (who is the anchor, I guess) with Iyaz Akhtar and Jason Howell. They would report on and discuss the day's tech news. There would also be live guests or guests who Skype in. What interested me was that although they reported on the day's tech news, most of it originating from press releases and postings, they review them intelligently and brings them down to earth, stripping away the spin. They brought it down to "what does it mean to you" sense. The TNT crew does so with a sense of humor and clear sense of how important the news was in the big scheme of things. The show would have sections discussing forthcoming events, interesting slightly non-tech news and have special coverage of major events. At first, I found it strange for them to have hosts that rotate in and out as well as guests but later found out that it was because the studio was too small to accommodate everybody.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sucker Punch: It does what is says on the tin

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino and Scott Glenn
Category: Action-Fantasy
Update: I decided to split this review into two because I still get asked about what this movie is about. This is the review of the movie itself while the explanation of the movie is here.

When the movie was about to end, I thought that is was an exciting action movie driven by this hard-to-follow story of a girl's fantasy of escaping from an asylum. I didn't think much about it even with the kicker at the end. It was after a few days later when I watched it again then I realized what the story structure was. It was different and imaginative but ultimately it's downfall. People who saw it didn't get it. I didn't the first time but looking back, the directors must have thought it was literal as it was right there in front of us. We just got distracted with all the visual candy.
Basically, it's the story of a young woman who was put in an asylum by her father and her attempt to escape. Her mother had died and left everything to her and her younger sister. The father, who seemed to have been molesting her for some time, decides to take his rage out on the younger sister. The young woman got hold of a gun and in the attempt to shoot her father, accidentally shoots her younger sister. His father puts her in the asylum to shut her up and pays off the head orderly to have her lobotomized so that she can't tell her side of the story. Don't worry I haven't given much away. All the above happens in the first 5 minutes.
The remainder of the movie is a bit more messier. The movie takes a sudden left turn and suddenly everybody is not whom they were a few minutes ago. We never know her real name but young woman is called Baby-doll for the rest of the movie. She is now in a brothel where she discovers that she enters another dream world when she begins to dance. In this world, she is given a list of items needed to escape and goes about collecting these items with her new friends. This is where it got really confusing. In the dream sequences, she goes about looking for the items and gets them. At the end of the dream sequences, she gets the items from the dream for 'real'.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

TV: Love Bites - The best replacement for Summer Romantic Movies

Starring: Becki Newton, Greg Grunberg, Constance Zimmer and many others
Category: Romantic Comedy
It's summer, the season of loud, often over-promoted, multi-tie-in movies starring big stars (paid with big bucks) or starring big budget CGI. It's also the season for Romantic Comedies, counter-programming for the feminine side of the audience. Translated into: something to drag the masculine half to after the big robot / animation / comic-book conversion / sci-fi-fantasy movie he dragged the feminine half to.
Problem is there hasn't been a good romantic comedy (or even romance movie at that) lately in the theaters. That is where TV's Love Bites comes in.
Love Bites is the romantic comedy for the Twitter generation. It's short, straight-to-the-point plots does not deviate from the delivery of the punchline. It is as if the writers formula is:
  1. Take a standard romantic comedy movie plot
  2. Strip out the sub-plots and secondary characters.
  3. Re-focus and innovate on the core theme. 
Secondary characters and sub-plots are replaced by the series regulars Greg Grunberg as Judd and Becky Newton as Annie. They tie the various stories together through their relationships and friendships or merely exist to provide continuity or relevance of some kind. Each episode has three stories which either intersect, continue from one another or linked in some way, usually via Judd or Becky. At times, they are the main players of their story arc.
I loved the first episode as it guest starred Jennifer Love Hewitt as herself offering a proposition to Judd many men wouldn't turn down. He finds himself next to Jennifer on a flight to a bachelor getaway of his friend Carter. Carter has to deal with his fiancee, Liz, his firing from his job and her new discovery. He finds himself competing for her attention with a machine. It was a gift given at her bachelorette party where Becki's friend cops to being a virgin to attract the attention of a guy. If that is a lot to take in, the pace doesn't let up in the following episodes.
I wasn't distracted by the number of characters. It was very busy and very intricate, which makes repeat viewing a must. Half the fun was following all the characters and their own stories. And it wasn't as if the plots were like in soap opera ridiculous territory. The characters felt real and often face real problems. Judd and Colleen feel like real people. Not everything is perfect but some how they are perfect together. Sometimes, you can see right through to which movie a particular story seems to rip off, only for the plot veer left, leaving you surprised at the conclusion. If I can put it in a way, the overall plot complexity didn't go up to the level of Lost but it was heading there. In a good way.
You can really enjoy it if you focus on each individual story separately. Don't worry how it all ties in or who these people are. Like I said before, you can take this as a replacement of those summer romantic comedies. Think of it as 3 movies in an hour. How cool is that? Not to mention cheaper.
Maybe because of the many characters, the people behind Love Bites decided to bring in familiar faces in familiar roles. You immediately recognize not only the stars but also their personalities they played in other TV series. Slightly immature womanizing doctor, insecure guy who has to live out a lie he created for his girlfriend, married-for-too-many-years odd couple consisting of ultra conservative husband and liberal wife to name a few. Watch and try figure out who I just described and where else they played the same character.
What did bother me was a few small things. The Jodie character was exactly the same as Cassie in the first episode, only played by a different actress. Constance Zimmer replaced Pamela Adlon who was Judd's wife Colleen in the first episode. So why couldn't the writers be honest and not change the characters name from Cassie to Jodie, even though they were essentially the same. Maybe they wanted to keep the door open for Krysten Ritter, who played Cassie, to return in some future episode.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Shock Doctrine jolted me awake

Category: Documentary

In a strange city and jet lagged, you tend to watch whatever is on in the early hours of the day with the hope that it is boring enough to drive you to well-deserved sleep. This was my hope not fulfilled.
The Shock Doctrine is a documentary that claims that the economic and social disasters in the last few decades were caused by policies put in place after some disaster or catastrophe. The documentary is based on the book of the same name. The shock facing the general population, with it's attention diverted, provided an opportunity to introduce extreme measures that would not normally be accepted, sometime under the disguise of helping to improve the situation. This was done on purpose or in latter years, planned as part of the whole scheme. The ultimate goal of the Shock Doctrine was at first, to try out Milton Friedman's free-market economic theory in real life. This led to some successes and some failures. But the value of the doctrine lies in it's ability to introduce or make people accept what they normally would not. In the end, the doctrine is used to ultimately put wealth in the hands of the few.
What is shocking to me was the nature of the doctrine itself. This was not thought up by some politician with some shady deal in mind. This was thought up and identified by people in academia, in universities who were driven by some high-minded academic goal. This doctrine was thought up as a means to an end, a tool to be used. I have never fully understood why people of my parent's generation viewed academics with suspicion. I understood why universities were forcing science undergraduates to take more arts-related courses and vice versa, to create a more rounded person. But putting the historical events in the documentary in context (plus the minor event called the creation of the atomic bomb), the drive to make academic more humans seems logical now.
The documentary is depressing to no end. It just piles on woe upon woe of the helplessness of the general public to their manipulation to agree to something that will ultimately bring them great harm. It sheds a new light on politics and war and the tools and goals of them both. Personally, it finally made me understand what the fuss was about Pinochet in the UK and why Margret Thatcher came back to public life to support him. The documentary pulled me in and although I thought I saw some leaps of faith, generally it was easy to follow and lays out the reasoning logically.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bone Spin-off May Have Legs

Caught the Bones episode which is a back-door pilot for a spin-off. Basically, it is about a former comrade of Booth who is able to find just about anything. Booth calls it "Finder Power". He helps Booth and Bones on a case in Florida. He goes around with a very British cockney accented bar keep, played by the ever-wonderful Saffron Burrows and his legal adviser played by Michael Clark Duncan.  I am always skeptical about spin-offs. I understand that the producers or the studio is trying to duplicate success. Success built by the original series. But often it feels that they are trying to build a new series without paying their dues. Instead of investing in the creative process needed to create a series, they just want to ride the success the original series. More of the same is not always what people want. If the original series was quirky, doesn't more quirkiness become grating? You can try to recreate the chemistry that made the original series good but repeating the trick may not be as appealing. The first time it was cool but now it will be, "Well, what else have you got?".
Another reason probably why producers try for a spin-off is that they want to build on the existing series fans. If that is the premise, ok. But sometimes, they don't want to answer THE critical question. That question is the one that needs to be answered to make the new series successful. It is probably the same one that was answered the first time around in the first series. The answer or not answering it at all, will determine whether the new series is a Fraiser or a Joey.
Back to the Bones episode. It seemed that they were trying too hard at first but then got better towards the end. Since the setting was in Florida, gratuitous showing of skin was the order of the day. My message to the producers is please do not make this too much like Burn Notice. It has the potential to have the same dynamics but that is not what Bones is about. Be your own series but always have a link to the past to keep the fans there. This could be an opportunity to bring back some some of the characters were memorable and interesting in Bones. My top pick is Peyton Perotta, the FBI agent who stood in for Booth on some episodes in Season 4. She could work as a foil for the Locator, his handler so to speak. Another character I'd like to see is Tim "Sully" Sullivan, another FBI agent who worked with Bones and Booth. He could be carrying around his own baggage and the chance to team up with the Locater would be his only way back in the FBI. There would be also the mystery of what happened after Bones rejected his invite to sail off with him and his failure to come back to Bones after the one year trip.

Monday, June 06, 2011

More new talent on YouTube

To my surprise, my previous post on new talent on YouTube was quite popular. I don't go looking for new videos but browsing around, something on the right side of the screen would catch my eye and down that rabbit hole I would go. I find myself listening more and more to covers by these new talent. Not because they come out with a good imitation but rather because they have put in their own spin on these songs. More often than not, they put their heart and soul in these songs.
Most of these songs are also acoustic which is quite pleasing. I am tired of the whole auto-tuning scene and producers bent on trying to fill in every second of the song with music. So these are some of the new talent I have been listening to on YouTube.
Boyce Avenue consists of Daniel, Alejandro and Fabian. They are quite successful in their own right and are touring. They have studio songs out on iTunes but their strengths is in acoustic renditions of popular songs. I especially like their cover of Back For Good by Take That and How to Save a life by the Fray.
Barely in her teens, Maddi Jane is blessed with a strong voice that projects well without breaking. Yet it's her heartful rendition of Adele's Rolling in the Deep with her nuances in her delivery that stands out. I like Adele (she reminds me of Alison Moyet) but She also does well with songs that are not known to be played acoustic. Maddi sings and ends Price Tag by Jesse J. with her own flair and style.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Impossibly Romantic: Waiting for Forever

Starring: Rachel Bilson, Tom Sturridge Category: Romance

This movie is from a rare breed, the romance movie. Not a romantic comedy. Because love can be serious and meaningful. Too often Hollywood tacks on comedy to romance thinking that is what people want. But like a good novel, a romance movie is at it's core and execution about love and the things we do for it. This movie is even more unconventional as is about love at the beginning of life and at the end of it. It is about love between parents and their children, between brothers and between two people who share the deepest meaning to each other.
Growing up, Emma and Will were best of friends. They shared everything and spent most of their time playing together. Most important of all Emma was there for him when his parents died. As he tried to make sense of it all and in an inspired moment, Emma gave him something so simple but special to Will. Something that made him cope with what was happening and hang on, something that he would carry with him forever.
Will used this as the center point of his reality. He put Emma and her gift at the center of his reality, in a harmless way really. While the rest of the world around him grew up, Will held on to his sense of innocence and his enduring love for Emma. Even though he moved away, one day he made a decision to be where Emma was. Not stalking her but being in the same places that made meeting her was a possibility.
Emma's father's illness leads them both back to their hometown. Now home, Willy's friends and family make Will face reality by facing Emma. Emma in turn, has to deal with her parents and their relationship facing death. Will decides to confess everything to Emma. This in the end is both good and bad. For the rest you have to watch the movie. Please. This movie needs all the support it can get. Watch it now on Amazon Instant Video.
This movie is hard to judge because it is unconventional. It has a very indie flavor to the story but visual-wise it is full-on hollywood. Everything is bright and shiny and clean. Everything is so well lit.. Which is why a lot of people mistake it for one. First of all, the movie is full of well-developed characters. Everybody has a back story and they shine in their brief moments. We can see the ailing husband trying to prepare his wife to lead a life without him, a brother who is resentful that he has to be the responsible one and two friends who grow up to be a family. I think it is a bit too busy. With the plot about Emma's boyfriend and his attempt to frame his mistake on Will, it become overloaded. I think less time should have been spent on it or it could have been dropped altogether. The plot tries very hard to avoid the cliches whenever possible. At points where it just can be maudlin or have 'cute' or 'redemption' moments, the movie chooses a more realistic path. This leads to a huge pay-off in the end. Be patient and it'll come.
A lot of people on IMDB have compared this to Benny and Joon. It does seem that the actor playing Will was channeling a young Johnny Depp. I don't agree because Benny and Joon is about a love between two special individuals. It is about their special situation, dealing with adversity together.
This movie reminds more of a small movie called Late for Dinner, starring Brian Wimmer, Peter Berg and Marcia Gay Harden. The movie plot is different but at the heart of both movies, is an undying love that refuses to give up. It is about a young family dealing with the tribulation of starting a family life. It is also about what choices can one make if they are frozen for 30 years and wake up to a world very different from when they first closed their eyes. I can't believe it's also on Amazon Instant Video. This movie is about a decent, loving husband who thinks of only what he can do for his family whatever life may throw at him. It is very romantic, especially when it comes to choices he makes with regard to his wife. The end sequence is very beautiful and you can't help being drawn in. Find it and it will be worth your time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Your Average Japanese Yakuza Movie: Sharkskin Man Peach Hip Girl

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Sie Kohinata
Category: Action Comedy

The Japanese title of the movie is "Samehada otoko to momojiri onna".
The only way I can begin to describe this movie is that it feels like a cross between a live action anime and a dark indie comedy. In a good way. The movie begins with two storylines meeting up. The first is the tale of the young maid at a mountain inn who is trying to escape her uncle, the manager of the inn. Her uncle clearly has designs for her, twisted designs. The second is the tale of a yakuza henchman on the run after stealing the mob's money. It isn't clear how he stole it but the yakuza is pissed enough to send in multiple groups of killers from HQ, despite friction between the groups. It is obvious they each have their history with each other. Led by a senior member, they want the money back even though it is not a huge sum by their account. At first I thought it was that they wanted to make a lesson out of him but as the story progresses, it seems that they are as interested in the money as they are the henchman (Sharkskin Guy). The maid (Peach Hip Girl) and the henchmen cross paths. The henchmen first thinks that he is taking her on the run but later realises she too is on the run and decide to run together.
The movie is filled with stereotypes from an anime movie or a manga comic. We have the boss's off-the rails son in ultra-fashionable clothes who fancies himself to be the most ruthless killer around, the senior yakuza boss with a collector's streak, the gay killer for hire who is hired by the uncle to track and kill whoever she is running with and a few more characters that manga readers will recognise immediately. The movie is also very Japanese. There is a scene where the henchman stops by the roadside to buy cigarettes from a roadside vending machine. You read right, a roadside vending machine. Where you would normally find a mailbox, exposed to the elements. Anywhere else in the world, the vending machine would be toast, banged up and broken into. But not in Japan. (Look up their recent conduct after the tsunami and you would appreciate the unique culture of the Japanese).

Monday, April 04, 2011

On my WDTV: Find an old friend on Sesame Street

Sesame Street - Elmo's Potty Time
Update: Mediafly is no longer available on WDTV because they have stopped the Mediafly service altogether. Some of the videos mentioned here is available at the Sesame Street website and at the Sesame Street Podcast

My kids don't know what Sesame Street is and that is a crime. While there are many educational shows on TV right now, all of them owe some sort of debt to the pioneer of education on TV, Sesame Street. I tried finding Sesame Street on the cable channels and it was impossible. All I ended up was with Elmo. I have nothing against Elmo but I prefer the whole gang on the street, from Big Bird to Cookie Monster to the Count. I also prefer the original format with the many shorts on letters and numbers. These are works of art in themselves, ranging from stop-motion animation to skits with the various characters (Kermit the reporter!) and plain old cell animation.
Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 2 (1974-1979)On a whim, I tried looking in Mediafly on my Western Digital WD TV Live  Under the section Kids and Family, there it was, the Sesame Street podcast.
My kids loved it. It was something different than the hard-action, constant motion cartoons they were used to seeing. It also didn't talk down to them, sound condescending or involved too much overacting. But it didn't last long, 10-15 minutes I think. My kids were clamoring for more. I went back, tried scrolling down and trying to find another episode. There was a lot of other podcasts but no more Sesame Street. Rather then disappoint, I played again the same episode. They didn't mind but I knew I would have to wait for another podcast to be posted for them to see another episode.
The podcast itself was a bit smaller than the screen on my TV. I pressed Options on the WDTV remote, looking for the zoom option. As I was scrolling through the options, there it was, the View Episodes option. I clicked on it and it brought up the previous episodes. I chose one from the list and it showed another episode. My kids were ecstatic.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The new talent is on YouTube

I enjoy music like most everybody else. I like the old stuff but I also like to hear new acts and talents. Most of them sing covers. Depending on the song, they can sing them like the actual singers do or do their own version. I like watching American Idol for that. I skip the first half of the season, where to go around and do auditions. All sorts of people come to these auditions. And the producers probably let them on to make good TV. But it's not about the music so I skip that part. Even then, the contestants on American Idol have been not so good the past few seasons. There was Crystal Bowersox but she was the odd one out.
Another place for new talent is of course, YouTube. Not a month passes by without YouTube making someone famous. Rebecca Black is one but for the wrong reasons. The song is irritatingly catchy. She is an OK singer but with coaching she could be another possible contestant on American Idol. Which she doesn't have to be now that Simon Cowell wants to see her. So can you see how YouTube is making American Idol redundant. While American Idol has to cater for pop music, there are so many other types of acts on YouTube.
One of my favorite YouTube stories is about Arnel Pineda. He was picked by Neil Schon to become the lead singer for Journey after Neil saw him on the YouTube. You can literally follow his story on YouTube. There are videos of him singing before Journey and interviews with Ellen and Oprah afterwards.
But for every Arnel there are those on YouTube who enjoy a little less success. I thoroughly enjoy listening to delawellsoulmusic. The guy can play the guitar really good. He even has an album out now.

After watching one of his videos, there came a link to KellyIsMusical. Kelly is still a teenager but can she play. Checkout her licks on Kelly's 25 best guitar riffs. Any guitar player will start with covering other people's work. But Kelly shows potential in coming out with her own riffs. Kelly is part the group Say Chance and they have original music out. These girls have talent. All they need now is a bit of luck.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On my WDTV: NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

Update: Mediafly no longer provides this service anymore. NBC Nightly News is available via RSS.

My days as a news junkie are far over. CNN Headline news was the vessel and the juice was the Balkans conflict. Since then, the world of 24 hour news has changed a lot. At first, we thought that the constant stream available across multiple channels will open the airwaves to news that was not normally available or couldn't be included in the nightly news. It's limits of time and the need to have a local news portion will make the producers choose one important news item over another. We wouldn't know.
However, despite the 24 hour-news monster's huge appetite, it's still fed the same basic diet. Only there is a lot of it. The same story get covered over and over again. The same ground is gone over and over again by experts and news celebrities, those who are celebrated by viewers but don't really add anything substantial.

There is something to be said about thoughtful discourse. Rather than telling people what they want to hear, why not focus on the facts, clearly noting what is opinion and what it fact. If there is something to be discussed, why not do it a calm manner and let us the viewer decide. Boring TV? I'm sorry but it's the news. It's supposed to be boring. The interesting part of the newscast is the news, not the showboat trying to generate a higher rating. This is not pro wrestling although some news shows are starting to look like them, shouting and all.
Which brings me to NBC Nightly News. I don't watch it on-air anymore. Simply my life is structured in a way that makes it difficult. And while I know videos are available online, if I am online, I get the news faster by reading the news myself. Then came along my WDTV Live  and Mediafly. Now I can watch it anytime I want on the TV. I know I sound like I'm gushing but to those of you who are watching on their computers, to have it on the TV (where it belongs) courtesy of the WDTV Live, you begin appreciate why traditional broadcasters are concerned. 
I know of Brian Williams previously only when he makes an appearance on the Daily Show with John Stewart. To see him in action and contrast that with his appearances on the Daily Show makes him human, more relateable. On the Daily Show, he is affable, can take a joke and is able to zing one back. On the Nightly News, he is all business. On the Nightly News, he brings us news and information and facilitate the experts to inform us. On the Daily Show, he can take digs about he Jersey background and reminds Stewart of how important his role is as media watchdog/court-jester. I was watching him and NBC Nightly News in the earthquake and tsunami in Japan coverage. There was a measure of calm but urgency in his delivery. He carefully noted what was fact and what was guesswork. While there were some concerns with issues like the nuclear power plants, the newscast always brought home the impact of the natural disaster up to a personal level.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The World of Starship Troopers: A Utopian Dream?

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Neil Patrick Harris, Director: Paul Verhoeven
Category: Sci-Fi, Action
Warning: The post is political. If that offends you, please don't read the rest. I am not usually political but the intrigue and maneuvering between the Republicans and Unions in Wisconsin in the news triggered my mind to an an old unfinished post. The main part of the post below was originally written many years ago but was never finished. I just went over it once over and posted it.
Starship Troopers was viewed as a popcorn action movie starring teen movie actors when it came out. It was more notable as a special effects extravaganza of it's day. Looking back, director Paul Verhoeven also brought to life the world of Starship Troopers. Starshup Troopers and it's world was first thought up by it's author, Sci-Fi legend Robert Heinlein. Verhoeven added his visual touches, bringing the world to life. But if you look past the Nazi-like uniforms, you will find both a world that are heading for as well as a world that we already in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

NextNewNetworks is now YouTube Next

, youtubeIf you have read my recent post on the great WDTV, I wrote about the Internet media experience with services like MediaFly and Flingo. I also mentioned that a part of this was the high quality content on NextNewNetworks (delivered by both MediaFly and Flingo). Apparently someone else also agrees because now they are part of YouTube as YouTube Next.
You can read the gory details here. Will the Internet/YouTube eventually break the big 3?