Archive for the 'Film' Category

A History of Ignorance

Sunday, October 2nd, 2005

Caught a couple of flicks today, and in both I ended up sharing a row with a parent and a cute little blond girl of around 6. For the first film (March of the Penguins), this was to be expected. For the second, however, my flabber was gasted at the sight of a young child. I know the rating system is pretty hokey, but what part of an R-rated film called A History of Violence makes one think it’s appropriate for a little kid?

I don’t think you’d even need to know more than that (although the poster with the big gun would be another clue) to realize it’s a movie for “grown-ups.”


Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Summarize James Bond in five words.

Got ’em? Was one of them “British”? For me, it would have to be, yet in the search for a new Bond post-Brosnan (who, alright, is technically Irish) that seems to have been forgotten. A recent poll of Netflix members came back with an Australian on top (and bottom):

    -- Hugh Jackman             26%
    -- Clive Owen               21%
    -- Ewan McGregor            16%
    -- Jude Law                 14%
    -- Orlando Bloom             6%
    -- Heath Ledger              3%

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Australia(ns), but as Bond? The accent is simply not the same thing — though some may note that a survey done for purposes of Netflix marketing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. Right they are, but according to “Daily Variety” (as quoted in IMDb), the folks who do make the call, Sony and Eon Productions “are completing screen tests for the movie this week…the frontrunners are [Daniel] Craig, Henry Cavill, Sam Worthington and Goran Visnjic.”

Goran Visnjic is Croatian and 33. Sam Worthington was hot in Gettin’ Square, but he’s Australian and only 29. And Henry Cavill may be a Brit, but he’s freakin’ 22! A 22-year-old James Bond!

To me, it’s simple. We can’t have Australians, Americans, Croatians or anything else but Britons. The accent is a key part of the character, and you can’t fake it — the movies are fake enough as it is. You can’t have somebody under 30 unless you’re trying to do Bond Begins. And while we’re making up arbitrary rules, Bond has always been a brunette.

Add it all up and you’ve gotta choose Clive Owen (of BMW’s The Hire, Croupier, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead… are you spotting the pattern yet?). He’s sexy, suave, sleek, sophisticated and other good things that don’t even start with S.

If you can’t get Clive, Daniel Craig would make a fine substitute as well. That thing I said about brunette? Eh, we can bend the rules, especially for a guy who was so awesome in Layer Cake and looked damn fine doing it…

Uhhh, Edgar…

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Pop quiz: name a store full of items that all sell for the same price, regardless of each item’s differences or time on the market. Can you think of anything? The guy running Warner Music sure can: the iTunes Music Store. And he thinks that’s crazy:

“There’s no content in the world that has doesn’t have some price flexibility,” said Warner Music Group Corp. chief executive Edgar Bronfman at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference here. “Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal.” [qtd. in Reuters: Apple, record labels to face off over pricing]

“No content in the world”, eh? Is it just me, or did Eddie forget something? A pretty major form of “content”? They’re called movies, and anyone who’s been to a movie theater knows for damn sure that not all movies are created equal, but when it comes to the theater, everything is priced the same.

But maybe Mr. B was just having a bad day. At the same conference, “Red Herring” quotes him* as saying this:

“We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue,” [Bronfman] said. “We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only.

“We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders,” added Mr. Bronfman. “We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others.” [from Bronfman Fires Back at Apple” via Gruber]

See? He’s just losing it, is all. Expecting a cut of hardware sales (when you’re already getting a cut of digital and CD sales for the actual music) would be like Coke demanding they get a percetange every time a cup is sold. Ridiculous. But what can we expect from a guy who uses the quasi-word “monetize”?

* Interestingly, the sources differ on the “world” line. Rather than “in the world” and “flexibility”, as Reuters has it, Herring quotes him as saying “There’s no content that I know of that does not have variable pricing,” which is different phrasing but the same effect.

The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read Today

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Allow me, if you will, a moment of pure silliness.

I was watching “The Wire” season 2 yesterday (and by that I mean all of it, in one day) and at one point in that quite excellent series, one character, Ziggy, plays a joke on another, Maui, by changing Maui’s desktop background to a photo of a penis. (Supposedly Ziggy’s own.)

Now, first of all, please don’t get the wrong impression: this is a mere blip in the sophisticated story line of the series, just as the spliced penis pic in Fight Club is merely incidental.

Incidental to the plot, that is, but no doubt a major headache for the clearance people. See, we now live in a world where a record company wants $10k for a 6-second Rocky ringtone played in the background of a documentary (sadly, I’m so not kidding), you better believe they aren’t just going to grab any old photo off the Net and shoot that.

They could have a cast member pose, I guess, but then he would be need to be paid residuals each time his, ahh, effort was shown in syndication. (Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry kept getting all those small-amount checks?)

I don’t know. Call me weird, but I just find it hilarious (and a little sad) that it’s somebody’s job to review the script, find the image, and secure a contract with the owner just so they can have a brief practical joke in an episode.

Mountain Tops

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Well, the Venice Film Festival gave Brokeback Mountain the “Golden Lion”, its award for best film. If there was any doubt I’d be seeing it (there wasn’t), that takes care of that. They don’t seem to have an official site at the moment, so right now the best place to see the trailer is at Yahoo!.

Another film I’ve been tracking recently also did very well at Venice, winning the screenplay award: George Clooney’s Good Night, And Good Luck. This film, about Edward R. Murrow’s decision to face down Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wis., 1947-1957) seems like it could hardly come at a better time.

Just watching the open sequence on Good Night‘s official site makes me wish there was more of that kind of thinking on television (okay, everywhere) today.

Clooney seems to feel the same way, for the trailer (and the official site) ends with a URL: That site, currently unfinished, opens with the same animation, but then uses the film as a springboard to promote citizen journalism. Seems this — like the films themselves — might be worth following.

Update [Mon 1:05a]: Cousin Josh found Brokeback‘s official site at, though it’s just a placeholder for now. Thanks for the tip, Josh.


Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Over the weekend I had a chance to see the trailer for Brokeback Mountain, the upcoming Ang Lee movie about two cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who fall in love.

It actually looked pretty good, which means I’m now nurturing a fragile hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a nice little gay-themed movie that doesn’t involve AIDS, coming out, gay bashing, or circuit parties.

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

They’re Due When?

Monday, August 1st, 2005

Blockbuster “End of Late Fees” program is mostly myth — which is why my BbO cancellation confirmation shocked me:

If you do not choose another plan, your membership will be cancelled as of Tuesday, August 2, 2005. We must receive all BLOCKBUSTER Online DVDs by Saturday, October 1, 2005 in order for you to avoid additional charges.

I get two months to return the discs I have now? Must be a bug.

Mommy, Mommy! Can We Have a Frank, Open Discussion About Sex?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Redbox is a self-serve DVD kiosk offering around 50 popular films. The service, wholly-owned by McDonald’s, promises to revolutionize video rental with $1/night rates and the ability to drop off a title at any Redbox location (even in another city.)

We’ll see if the service succeeds, but I for one think they’re already breaking new ground on their home page:

Kids and mom point to 'Kinsey' cover in Redbox kiosk
Cropped from

They’ve blurred it ever so slightly to be modest, but it’s obvious what they’re all pointing at:

cover of 'Kinsey' DVD

Yep, I reckon the kids are pointing at the word “sexually”, no doubt saying “C’mon, don’t you think we’ve outgrown that birds and bees crap?”

On a related note, I wonder if these boxes might serve as a back door for teens to get easy access to R-rated films. It’s an open secret that the MPAA ratings board “has taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to the video marketplace.”

Perhaps those teens who aren’t blessed with the hip, happening Mom that little Johnny and Sue here have can just rent it themselves. Once they’re old enough for a debit card, of course.

Update [17:11]: From the FAQ: “Do I need to be 18 or older to rent DVD’s from Redbox Automated DVD Rental? That is affirmative.” Riiiiiiight. Just like cigarette machines. (Although I haven’t seen one of those in ages…)

This is What I’m Talking About

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

screen cap of Blockbuster recommended flicks

Moments ago, BbO suggested the above films as possibilities when I added Rashômon to my queue.

They are so deeply out of whack I had to laugh. Pegging One Night at McCool’s as being at all similar to a black-and-white Japanese classic is like recommending that those who loved Cidade de Deus give Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo a rent.

They silly.

P.S. I don’t know what the hell the deal is with the narrow margins.

Smokin’ Teens

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

The folks in India’s “Bollywood,” home to the world’s largest film industry (by output, not revenue) are up in arms over new health regulations banning smoking in films and television. The new guidelines, to take effect from 1 August, also make allowances for older movies: cigarette packs must be electronically masked, and a health message must scroll at the bottom of the screen during smoking scenes.

As India can’t enforce these requirements on imported films, they will instead require foreign exhibitors to get a special rating from the Censor Board.

Upon hearing this news, I was going to comment that our own rating system, while moronic in its own special ways, isn’t quite so extreme as to screen for something so common. Then the last DVD I watched opened with this:

This motion picture has been rated PG-13 for Violence, Sexual Content, Language, Teen Partying and Some Drug Material

So I’ll just shut up now.

Blockbuster: Out to Lunch

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Regard the following DVD covers:

Eating Out  Eating Out

The left one is from Blockbuster Online, where it’s listed as “Eating Out [Edited Cover]“. Oddly, this is the only title in all of BbO that carries the “edited cover” designation. It’s not an edited version, mind you, just a different cover. Why they feel the need to edit this particular cover — or really, any at all, considering the store is online and DVDs are shipped in generic white sleeves anyway — is not clear. (This, by the way, is the enlarged version you have to click to see. The version shown in a title list is even smaller.)

The cover on the right — which matches the Amazon version — is from…Blockbuster Online. Except this one, they’re selling.

So, in summary, their policy seeems to be: “this cover is too racy for us to show you, unless you’re thinking of pre-ordering it, in which case here you go.”

Misplaced Products

Friday, June 24th, 2005

On Tuesday, B-don and I were discussing a growing trend in media. “So am I the only one,” he said, “that actually likes product placement in TV shows and movies? I’d much rather see someone drinking a Coke, eating Doritos, and putting Tide into the washing machine than seeing fucking ‘cola’, ‘chips’ and ‘detergent’.”

I replied that I didn’t mind low-key product placement, but I draw the line at overt stuff such as “C’mon, Phoebe, you know you’re interested in trying the new, calorie-free Coca-Cola Zero, aren’t you?”

I meant it to be a comical exaggeration, but today I learned that for Lindsay Lohan it’s just business as usual:

In an era when on-screen advertising is routine — even unobtrusive when done well — the makers of “Herbie” use every opportunity to stick a parade of Cheetos, Pepsi, Dupont, etc. in your face.

Not only is this supremely distracting, but Disney’s hyper-marketing even slows the dialogue as actors struggle to say such things as “Nextel Cup Series” as if they’re reading off cue cards held by stern-looking corporate lawyers.

‘Herbie’ is loaded all right, with product placements (via StudioBriefing)

For shame! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy the crisp, refreshing taste of a Cool-Ranch Pepsi.

That Must Be a Special ‘Movie Star’ SUV

Friday, June 24th, 2005

As [Tom Cruise] left Manhattan’s Essex House Hotel, he was mobbed by a throng of screaming teenage girls, who snapped pictures and asked for his autograph.

Then he joined Holmes in a black AMC Yukon SUV and drove off to tape an appearance on “Entertainment Tonight.”
Scientology query nearly starts War over the Words (emphasis in the original)

The Phantom Menace

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

The sheer chutzpah of the MPAA never ceases to amaze. On Monday, they issued a press release: “Southern Cal. High Tech Task Force Stamps Out Illegal DVD/CD Replicating Plant in Los Angeles” [pdf] in which they crow:

Los Angeles –The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in coordination with the Southern California High Tech Task Force have closed New Century Media in the City of Industry, California. The investigation and seizure of $30 million in illegal stampers and DVDs was a result of findings from another raid at a replicating plant nearby where illegal DVDs produced at New Century Media were recovered. The plant was closed for illegal business on June 15 but no arrests have been made.

Isn’t that interesting? They seized $30m in booty, shut down the plant, yet made no arrests?

Turns out the MPAA isn’t telling the whole story, at least as Jennifer Yu, co-founder/owner (along with her husband) of New Century Media tells it. According to Yu, her company is a legit business which:

  • has been operating since 1989, reproducing thousands of titles per year, and
  • was permitted to resume production immediately by the High Tech Task Force, and
  • only experienced the seizure of $10,540 in discs, duplicated for a public company, plus $15,000 in equipment — roughly 0.058% of their annual production.

So how do we reconcile a $30m seizure with $25,540? Is this Enron-style accounting? Well, yes, after a fashion: according to an LAT follow-up, “the MPAA in its new statement did not retract the $30-million figure but explained that it came up with the number by estimating the value of the DVDs seized during the raid as well as the value of DVDs that could be produced using the equipment.” [emphasis added]

Got that? They made it up. It’s not wholesale value, it’s not market value, it’s potential value: basically, pure crap. It’s the logical equivalent of police shutting down an ammunition factory and claiming they saved 200,000 lives.

Sadly, this sort of spin is par for the course.

This Means You, File Sharers

Monday, June 20th, 2005

I’ve noticed a subtle change in the obligatory FBI warning featured on DVDs lately.

There’s a new official seal and text:

FBI Anti-Piracy Seal
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Notice anything new? Here’s the classic text to jog your memory:
FBI Warning

There are two changes: one is that the new seal/text is generic, making no mention of the type of media (the new seal will also be used on games and other works) but the far more interesting change is the “without monetary gain” clause.

Clearly, someone wants to put those who rip and share on notice that even if they don’t make any money from the duplication, the FBI could still come knocking.

That is, if they actually had the time to visit several million Internet users.