Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Smart Strips Going Mainstream

Last month I wrote about the Smart Strip and my experience with it. The problem is, the product is not offered by a mainstream manufacturer and therefore doesn't have the visibility to take off. Well, now Belkin is offering up its own version. However, unlike the Smart Strip, the Belkin Conserve ($50 MSRP) doesn't automatically shut off power to unused devices--it requires that you flip a switch (or use a supplied remote control) to turn off power to selected devices. So for my money I still like the SmartStrip. Still, having Belkin in the game means broader adoption of this power-saving technology over the long haul. Don't believe me? Wired featured it in this month's printed issue (sorry, couldn't find the article online) and it won an award at CES 2008. The Conserve won't be available for purchase in the US until this summer.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vid of Week: 2008-02-25 Bill Gates Last Days

At CES, Bill Gates gave a keynote address which included this hilarious video.

Oscar Proves That I Don't Get Women

The Oscars were last night. Official results here. Apparently I am an awesome Oscar predictor except when it comes to the actress categories. In the non actress categories I was 6 for 6. In the actress categories I was 0 for 2. Overall I was 6 for 8, a decent 75%. Thank heaven they don't have more actress categories (Best Prostitute?) or I would have been toast.

My predictions:
  • Best Picture: Predicted: No Country for Old Men; Winner: No Country for Old Men
  • Best Director: Predicted: Joel an Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Winner: Joel an Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Best Actor: Predicted: Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood; Winner: Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
  • Best Actress, Ellen Page, Juno (This was my hardest selection--Julie Christie may be a better choice); Winner: Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
  • Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Winner: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
  • Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There; Winner: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
  • Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno; Winner: Diablo Cody, Juno
  • Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Winner: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Philadelphia is a Wretched Hive of Scum and Villiany (For Now)

I am psyched to see this Star Wars exhibit which is on tour, currently in my hometown of Philadelphia. I'll post my impressions after I go, but if you're reading this, you're probably already aware of it, itching to go see it in Philly now through May 4 or later this year in Saint Paul, MN.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

3D Without Glasses Is Here!

Sort of. Researchers have developed a refreshable holographic display. The problem is that it takes minutes to refresh. Not exactly optimal for watching the super bowl. Look for holo-TVs in 2015 (my prediction). But where will the content come from? Imagine the bandwidth required to transmit high-definition holographic video!

Oscar Predictions: You Can't Stop What's Coming...

What self-respecting film geek blog wouldn't offer their Oscar predictions? Here are mine. Let's hope I do better than my predictions for the nominees (67% accurate). Following in the footsteps of Anthony Hopkins, I'm thinking that the villains will walk away with the actor's categories. Overall, No Country for Old Men will probably be the big winner of the night, even though I preferred There Will Be Blood.

My predictions:
  • Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
  • Best Director: Joel an Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
  • Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
  • Best Actress, Ellen Page, Juno (This was my hardest selection--Julie Christie may be a better choice)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
  • best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There

I didn't originally prognosticate the nominees for these categories, but the winners are so predictable, I figured I should include them on the winners predictions if only to boost my accuracy percentage.

  • Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno
  • Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Walmart Puts the last Nail in HD DVD's Coffin

When Wal-mart announced that it would not sell HD DVD products, following the lead of Best Buy, it signaled the end of the format war. Now it is official. Toshiba announced that it will no longer pursue the technology. RIP HD DVD

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vid of Week 2008-02-18: La Jetee

Last Week I pointed out the similarities between 12 Monkeys and The Sixth Sense. Here's the brilliant short film that inspired Terry Gilliam when making 12 Monkeys.

Friday, February 15, 2008

February is Save Journeyman Month!

I just found this out myself or I would have posted this earlier.

February is the month to Show Your Love for Journeyman!

Go to the supermarket this weekend, pick up a some rice-a-roni, put it in a box, and enclose a quick handwritten note. Send it to:

Jeff Zucker c/o NBC
Re: Journeyman
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

Next week, send an email, fax, or phone call to NBC telling their senior press manager that you enjoy the show. Send her an e-card with ROSES!

Joanne Park, Senior Press Manager - NBC Publicity
phone: (818) 840-4579 / fax: (818) 840-4943

Lastly, let the executives know that Journeyman deserves to be saved this Valentine's Day, and let them know all that you've done.

FOX CEO: jack.abernathy@fox.com
NBC CEO: jeff.zucker@nbcuni.com

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Casuality of the Writer's Strike: 'Star Trek' pushed back to 2009

Variety is reporting that 'Star Trek' has been pushed back to 2009, citing the need for studios to re-balance their calendars in the wake of the writer's strike. Never fear, Trekkies, this does not seem to be an indication of any production problems for J.J .Abrams and his team.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Best Buy on Blu-Ray Bandwagon

Two Retailers Favor Blu-ray DVDs - New York Times

HD DVD was comatose before, Best Buy just pulled the plug. Quick, sell your HD DVDs on eBay to some ignorant mark!

I Sense 6-12 Dead Monkeys

I ask every movie buff that I know this question. What is up with M Night Shyamalan and Terry Gilliam? Do they have the same astrological sign? (No) Did they collaborate or even plagiarize one another on their films The Sixth Sense (1999) and Twelve Monkeys (1995)? Somehow these films have been karmically linked, I'm just not sure how. There are so many similarities between them....
TopicThe Sixth SenseTwelve Monkeys
Inspiration inspired by an episode from the short-lived television series Are You Afraid of The Dark inspired by the short film, La Jetée
Title Numeric, hints at key plot point Numeric, subtly hints at key plot point
Protagonist Cole Sear James Cole
Famous Quote "I See Dead People" "All I see are dead people."
Setting Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia, PA
Headline Actor Bruce Willis Bruce Willis
Protagonist has
Unique ability to see dead people Unique immunity from deadly virus
Business Budget: $55M
Opening Weekend: $26.6M, (~50% of budget)
Total Gross: $293.5M; performs well beyond expectations
Budget: $29M
Opening Weekend: $14.2 (~50% of budget)
Total Gross: $56M; performs beyond expectations
Awards Haley Joel Osment
Nominated, Oscar Best Supporting Actor
Nominated, Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Brad Pitt
Nominated, Oscar Best Supporting Actor
Won, Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Aftermath for Director
Hasn't done much sinceHasn't done much since
Anagrammed NamesMy math hangnails
Literal Grimy

Freaky, isn't it?


After 100 days, it's official: the WGA strike is over!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Films Featuring Fraternal Felons Fathered From Famous Filmakers. Fluke?

You witnessed it. The title to this post is perhaps the best alliteration I have ever written. Impressed?

So Hollywood has this tradition of releasing similarly themed films at the same time. The funniest example of this "coincidence," in my opinion was the concurrent Armageddon and Deep Impact releases in 1998 (incidentally, as of this posting they are currently ranked #1 and #19 on Amazon's top sellers in the disaster category). Other notable examples of film release coincidences include Tombstone/Wyatt Earp, Capote/ Infamous and The Prestige/The Illusionist.My personal favorite coincidence from the last couple of years was the concurrent launches of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock on the same freaking network! They couldn't even make the names of the shows different! Anyway, why this happens is a topic for another blog.

What is typical about these coincidences is that usually the films are produced from the Hollywood movie making factory, producers like Bruckheimer who work within the studio system and excel at producing big-budget blockbuster entertainment. So how did proven independent film auteurs Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet hit the same mark at the same time? Last year's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead from Lumet and Allen's Cassandra's Dream (currently in theaters) share the common thread of being about about a pair of brothers who plot a murder together and come unglued as a result. How did these identically-themed films come so close together? I can't tell you. Does someone out there know? What's stranger is that nobody seems to be mentioning this coincidence, except for my favorite podcast.

Which should you see? Well, I haven't seen Cassandra yet, but I loved Devil. So did my best movie blogger friend. If you pay attention to the mainstream critics, they prefer devil as well (87 score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 47 for Cassandra).

Monday, February 11, 2008

PowerWalk 2.0

This is cool.

Amazon's MP3 Store Actually Doesn't Suck

So obviously I advertise for Amazon on this site. I have been critical of them on this blog. Call me a corporate shill if you like, but the following is my honest assessment of Amazon's MP3 Download store....

I am an iTunes junkie. Like clockwork, I log on every Tuesday to download the free single of the week. Usually it sucks, but once in a while, I find something that I like. I end up doing a lot of browsing and tend to make lots of impulse purchases. It gives me seamless integration with my three iPods, the price is decent, and it works flawlessly on my Mac. Apple's DRM sucks, but it was no worse than any other service (or so I thought). They have limited DRM-free content for a premium, so that's kinda cool. Now I knew about Amazon's MP3 store, but I never really bothered, since in the past when I tried other music services, I either had a hard time getting downloaded tracks onto my iPod or hated the interface, and got no DRM benefit.

So then last week I read (and wrote) about Amazon's acquisition of Audible in their attempt to de-throne iTunes in the downloadable content war. Not knowing previously that they wished to compete in that market, I wondered what sort of investment they had made in other donwnloadable content. I started my investigation by checking out Amazon's MP3 Store.

My first impression--WOW.

The familiar Amazon navigation scheme, so far so good. Price--89 Cents a song, all DRM free! Wow! Some independent MP3 sites might have better prices for spotty content, but you can't beat that anywhere with mainstream music purchasing sites. When I saw the DRM-free, I thought that there must be a catch.

My biggest concern was the iTunes integration. Other sites that I have tried (like eMusic) force you to download the files onto your hard drive and then import them manually into iTunes. This manual repetitive task is what computers are supposed to be good at, right? I installed Amazon's application, no problem and downloaded a couple of albums. No problem. I opened iTunes and the tracks were there. No import required. I might as well have downloaded them in iTunes itself. So the biggest concern was addressed. I was in love.

I'm not much of an audiophile, but I can generally tell the difference between a CD and low to mid-quality MP3 compression. Amazon encodes its music at 256 kbps. Listening to the music it sounds pretty darn good. after listening to Sheryl Crow and KD Lang's latest releases (Detours and Watershed respectively), I came away impressed with the sound quality on both. Audiophiles should not take my word for it--find a more qualified source.

So is there anywhere where Amazon comes up short up against iTunes? iTunes definitely has the upper hand on the exclusive content, especially with their iTunes Originals series, which is spectacular. Also, with iTunes, I get a music store and my iPod management in one application, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.

So the bottom line is that I expect to be spending a lot more time on Amazon's MP3 store, but I won't be giving up on the iTunes store entirely--I still plan to get my free weekly track and keep my eye out for exclusive content. Otherwise, Amazon's got me!

Vid of the Week 2008-02-11: Be Kind Rewind Trailer by Michel Gondry

Hysterical and dare I say groundbreaking movie trailer. If you don't already know about this movie starring Jack Black and Mos Def, this post on Cinematical says it all. Be Kind Rewind is directed by one of my favorite directors Michel Gondry, whose previous works include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. If those films and this trailer are any indication, Rewind should be a wild ride.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Apple Comes Through For Me, Somewhat

The larger capacity iPod Touch and iPhones are here! If you predict something will happen in January, when it happens in February, does that count as an accurate prediction? In the world of consumer tech, I think so. Agreed?

Now if only my prediction prayers about iTunes going DRM-free would come true....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vid of the Week 2008-02-04: Audi Super Bowl Ad

So I'm starting this new feature at CG. Just sharing an interesting/funny video each week. What a better way to start than this Super Bowl homage to The Godfather?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tech Merger Week 2008

Amazon and Audible, $300 Million--they want to kill iTunes. They will fail. Audible is a nice little company, but the audiobook market is never going to be big. I think Amazon just bought them to kill the Audible/iTunes partnership. Plus, as Amazon wants to be a player in the downloadable content market, it is embarrassing for them to not have the corner of the downloadable audiobook market. Books, after all, are their bread and butter.

Microsoft and Yahoo, $44.6 Billion--they want to kill Google. They will fail. MSN is a jumble of disconnected parts with no vision or clear branding. Yahoo is a jumble of disconnected parts with little vision or clear branding. Actually, on second thought, they are perfect together! What makes them think that when you put those together you will improve their weak vision and branding? Google should be celebrating this move. Now instead of two semi-competent competitors, they have one incompetent (albeit larger) one.

This could be the start of a flood of mergers, because that's the way tech works... Look for more soon. Netflix? TiVo? Sony? Google? Facebook?

Someone should give me some of those millions and billions to supply this advice.