Saturday, June 28, 2008

Film Podcast Ratings So Far

Just in case that you are wondering, here is a summary of my podcast reviews thus far. Because I value content over production value, I created the new "weighted score" rating which is simply the average of three times the content score and the production score. Your results may vary. Look for more podcast reviews soon!




Weighted Score





KCRW's The Business








Fat Guys at the Movies








Friday, June 27, 2008

Film Podcast Review V: Cinebanter

Finally! A film-oriented podcast with a woman involved! After listening to hours and hours of podcasts hosted solely by men, I was desperate to hear a woman's point of view. Cinebanter to the rescue! The podcast itself even starts with "I'm a girl. I'm a boy.... How does this show differ from other movie podcasts? I'm a girl. I'm a boy.... "

I first listened to their reviews of Sex and the City and You Don't Mess with The Zohan. Yikes! My first impression was disappointment in the fact that having a man and woman discuss films is central to their show instead of of peripheral. Rather than an intelligent exploration of film between two film reviewers who happen to be of different sexes, my first exposure to the podcast played on the chick-flick and guy-flick stereotypes. However, this problem proved to be unfounded, as the SATC episode was a special episode that didn't follow the show's normal format. For example, in discussing The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, they did discuss the film intelligently without even touching their male/female personae. In that same discussion, they ended up in a pretty interesting open ended discussion about playing video games as kids and modern documentary style. Still, in other episodes that I have listened to, they do lapse into the stereotypes occasionally. For example, when discussing "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" the male co-host "Michaelvox" spent by more time by far discussing Marisa Tomei's extensive nudity more so than any other aspect of the film. Most of the time, they hold the gender stereotypes at bay.

One of their other 'hooks' is that they give spoilers on their show, with ample warning. I'm OK with spoilers that have an advance warning, if an intelligent discussion of the film requires it. However, they don't consistently use spoilers intelligently. For example, their excellent discussion of There will Be Blood included the ending in a very insightful way. On the other hand, in talking about Sex and the City, Tassoula (the female co-host) gives an extensive start-to-finish plot synopsis for no apparent reason other than to fawn over how much she loved the film. I am even less inclined to see it now, and the synopsis was really immaterial to her review. Another miss-they avoided (forgot?) spoilers on No Country for Old Men? The ending of that film was central to the few criticisms other reviewers had of the film, but they make no mention of it.

I do like their "Last 5" segment in which they each discuss the last five things that they have seen. Since that can and mostly does include rentals, it has included some long forgotten or hidden treasures that I am interested in going to rent myself (once I get through these podcast reviews).

On the personality side, the co-hosts are not super charismatic, a strong contrast to Fat Guys at the Movies, but thankfully they have a much more intelligent and less prurient discussion. Tassoula does in fact have a very sexy voice (as her fans are wont to write in to tell her). Perhaps Michaelvox does as well, I'm not one to judge. Still, they are not always engrossing in conversation. On occasion, you can tell that they are reading from a prepared script. In one episode, they spent 10 minutes discussing where they like to sit in a movie screening and where they ended up sitting during their Iron man screenings. ZZZZZZZZZZZ............

The production quality of Cinebanter is just OK. The hosts are in separate cities, which I am sure adds to the technical complexity. Tassoula is clearly the home base for the recording, because Michaelvox's audio is often more spotty (in some episodes more than others) where hers is less so. Both of them suffer from "popping Ps" if you know what I mean, which is annoying--they need better microphones or something. Also, the flow of the show is sometimes choppy, with jarring breaks inserted here and there. They are often communicating the flow of the show on air. For example, at the end of their up-front review segment, they often tell one other "I've got nothing else to say." Would it be so hard to communicate to one another before recording what your last points are going to be? This isn't a big criticism, it was just striking to me after listening so long more slickly produced podcasts and NPR productions.

All in all, I do like listening to these two a lot and will continue to subscribe to their podcast.

Content: 7/10
Production: 4/10

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Film Podcast Review IV: Fat Guys at the Movies

Like my previously reviewed /Filmcast, Fat Guys at the Movies is an offshoot production of its parent film blog site. In this case, Film School Rejects. Like the /Filmcast, FGATM caters primarily to the 15-year old fanboy population. FGATM does three major things right that /Film gets wrong.
  1. They have two articulate and generally well-prepared hosts (Neil Miller and Kevin Carr)
  2. The production quality is pretty good. Wow! Professional microphones! But, um... why is your kid in the background yelling for the bathroom?
  3. The length is reasonable.
In general, I liked this podcast more than /Filmcast because it was a tighter production and I like these guys. They just seem like the kind of dudes that you'd like to hang out with, pound a couple of beers, and talk movies. However, for my taste they are often on the wrong side of the highbrow versus lowbrow. Bathroom humor? Discussing the hotness of actresses? Really? One other example--their discussion of the film Iron Man somehow managed to incorporate a comparison to having so-so sex with a really hot woman. All that being said--I guess that I am a little lowbrow--I enjoyed it to a certain extent. But ultimately I realized--Why should I waste my time listening to them when they are watching suggestive youtube videos and broadcasting dead air on my time? Of course, I went to the show notes to find links to the videos, but I won't be listening any more. This is strictly for people who thought that Superbad was the film of the decade. Me, I just thought it was the film of the month.

Content: 5/10
Production: 6/10

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Film Podcast Review III: The /Filmcast

/Filmcast is a production of the blogsite, /Film. This podcast has an interesting twist over the others that I have reviewed thus far--it is streamed live over the internet so that listeners can join in a chat room and post questions and reactions in 'reel' time. I also liked some of their topics--interesting and insightful comments about the Lost season finale, the mid-season Battlestar Galactica finale and Recount, the HBO film. However, these nice nuggets were interspersed with not-so-interesting or insightful comments on other topics and droning movie reviews. Strange that the more insightful comments were about TV topics rather than film.

Additionally, the production quality is atrocious. Some hosts are clearly calling in, while it sounds like others that are perhaps in the same studio do not even have the same quality of microphone. So, technically, it sounded bad.

All that being said, my biggest problem with the podcast is that it was all over the map. Each episode, there are numerous hosts--4? 5? 6? 7? It was hard to keep track because sometimes 10 minutes would go by without a comment from one or more participants. Often, the participants spoke over one another, making everything they said unintelligible. The "What We Watched This Week" segment, though a clever idea, is indicative of the problem. The idea of this segment is that each person can talk about what they watched the prior week. That does come with some interesting benefits, like having interesting discussions with the benefit of years of thought about a film that may have been released a decade or more prior. However, what it ends up happening is a completely unstructured conversation that drags on for two hours. Other examples of the scattered nature of this podcast:
  1. When the show was announced on the /Film blog, one of the hosts of the show posted in the comments, "Heh, I guess I’m gonna be on the show tonight… and what a great way to find out. This is gonna be really fun!"
  2. During the podcasts, the participants seem unprepared for the topics. In one case, one participant asked another his opinion on a rejected script for the latest Indiana Jones film. The response was '"Well, to be honest, I didn't get a chance to read the script, but I have read other people's reviews of the script..." He then proceeded to comment on it.
I also had an issue with the fanboy nature of this podcast. Make no mistake--this is a podcast hosted by Comic-con frequent attendees with very little film-related content outside of the world of superhero/action/scifi genre. If that's your primary area of interest, you might possibly enjoy this podcast.

Perhaps the issues that I raised are a side effect of the live broadcast, an issue that the other movie-centric podcasts that I have reviewed have post-production efforts to clean. /Filmcast is in its infancy, just having gotten a handful of episodes under its belt. Maybe I'll tune in again in a few months if they reduce their number of hosts and broaden their focus beyond the comic-con topics. For now, I'm unsubscribing from this one.

Content: 4/10
Production: 2/10

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Firefox 3 Impressions

Gmail is much faster. The awesome bar seems like a cool idea, but the nature of that feature is that you have to use it for a while before it becomes useful. One of my favorite extensions, Tab Mix Plus, is not available for Firefox 3 yet, so that is disappointing.

Overall, a nice upgrade for the speed, but not worth all of the hype that it got last week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vids of Week: 2008-06-23: Microsoft Surface

First watch Microsoft's slickly produced marketing video.

Then watch this response.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Film Podcast Review II: KCRW's The Business

Content Rating: 6/10
Production Rating: 10/10

Based in Santa Monica, KCRW's The Business program (and podcast) is an inside look into "the business" of film and television. The show's host, Claude Brodesser-Akner is a veteran writer for publications such as Variety, Premiere, The New York Times Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Us Weekly.

As you would expect from a professionally-produced NPR program, the show is slickly produced and professional. This does not sound like a podcast at all. I considered not including this program in my series of podcast reviews since it was not produced on a level playing field with all of the other podcasts out there. I decided to include it because it is competing for my ear alongside these amateur podcasts. Both are delivered to my iPod via iTunes the same way, after all. Plus, as we all know, budget doesn't necessarily equal quality, and low budget film productions can far outshine its mega-produced bretheren. The final result is still displayed on the same silver screen. But I digress.

As you would expect from a host with such deep credentials as Brodesser-Akner, TB is an insightful look into the world of TV and movie making, if you are into such things. If you are interested in the inside world of show business from the most public (the writer's strike) to the esoteric (nielsen is rating commercials now) to the minutae (the price of popcorn), this is the show for you. All of those topics were interesting to me to a degree, but occasional segments like the interview with the authors of The Hollywood Assistant's Handbook left me snoozing.

Personally, though I like the podcast, I am less interested in how movies and television get made than in the films and shows themselves. I will continue to listen to The Business because it is often interesting, but I expect to have to occasionally skip some segments out of boredom.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Film Podcast Review I: Filmspotting

In one of my earliest blog posts, I highlighted my favorite film podcast (or rather, my favorite podcast overall), Filmspotting. Aside from the obligatory Star Wars/Trek/Matrix/Lost podcasts, I complained that there was a dearth of other interesting film-related podcasts out there. I recently discovered that this is no longer the case. New podcasts like The /Filmcast, Cinebanter, Cinemaslave, Fat Guys at the Movies, and Left Field Cinema have appeared on the scene (or at least, have come to my attention) recently. Anyway, as an avid podcast listener in general, I thought that I'd offer my thoughts and recommendations on these podcasts, plus the NPR production from KCRW/Santa Monica called "The Business".

This is what I originally wrote about Filmspotting:
Filmspotting (formerly Cinecast) is a good one--great commentary, knowledgeable, charismatic hosts, and great production value. Check it out.
In the spirit of film reviews, I will add to that some official ratings for Filmspotting for production quality and content. In those categories, I give Filmspotting
Content Rating: 9/10
Production Rating: 7/10

I do miss their original co-host, Sam Hallgren, but Matty Robinson has been a nice addition. Co-hosted by Adam Kempanar, the podcast is smart without being arrogant or high-minded, and doesn't delve too deeply into adolescent snarkiness like many other podcasts do. The hosts are intelligent and run a tight show which moves along briskly without even coming close to descending into sound bite quickie reviews. I love the combination of reviews of current films along with their film marathons that encourage listeners to follow along (recently featured marathons were 70's Sci Fi, Ingmar Bergman, and Film Noir). They also have fun sideshows like Massacre Theater, top 5 lists, and Matty's Movie Minute that are always well researched and produced. They occasionally have do interesting interviews as well, with the likes of Ellen Page, Diablo Cody

However, Filmspotting is not perfect. I have two complaints about the show. Once in a while, I think that the hosts play devil's advocate simply to be interesting and make for a lively discussion. For example, I find it very hard to believe that Matty really admired Speed Racer as much as he professed to. I also think that while the production quality of the show is excellent compared to other podcasts, once in a while one of the hosts trail off and their comments are unintelligible. Of course, Adam and Matty don't have the resources of a professional recording studio and are not professional radio hosts themselves, so this can be forgiven. The production value is still better than 99.9% of the amateur podcasts that I have heard.

Look for reviews of some other movie-themed podcasts in the coming weeks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lost Finale Videos

Some clips from You Tube.

First, an alternative view of the press conference in the penultimate episode's flashback. This aired just prior to the finale yet differed from the original airing from the week before:

Alternate Endings to who was in the coffin, to discourage spoilers, I guess....

Speaking of Spoilers.... Spoiler Alert! Sawyer Whispers something to Kate... A fan speculates on what it was, and others respond....

I can't wait for next season....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Break Servers While Breaking Record?

Uh Oh...

Carbon-Negative Critters

Wondering how we'll ever get out of the downward spiral of petroleum-dependence? I have always felt that technology would find a solution. Solar, wind, nuclear power and other options all have major drawbacks. Something more radical will likely prevail, I think. Is this it? It certainly looks promising. Bacteria that excrete petroleum--Pretty cool idea from the company, LS9. Still, I don't know... More petroleum burning means more carbon in the atmosphere, so we would still need to figure out a way to reduce our carbon emissions.

Hysterical Banned Poster for Ridiculous Film

Some time ago, I wrote about the ridiculous movie being released called Teeth. It is still one of my favorite posts, so I encourage you to read it. Now, on the eve of it's UK release, Empire has released The Banned Teeth Poster. It's definitely worth a look for a laugh.

Firefox? Hello?

The world record hopeful download day has begun, but as far as I can tell, Firefox 3 isn't available for download yet. Hmmmmm.... Oh, I see. Download day starts 10 AM PST. I have to wait until 1 PM EST! GRRRRRRRR

Hey! Nielsen: TV, Movie, Music, Video Game, Internet, Celebrity Opinions, Ratings, News And Reviews

I found this cool website, "Hey! Nielsen". Social networking meets viral marketing. Basically, it's a place where you can indicate whether you watch shows and you can rate them as well. You can post ratings and others can rate your ratings. Interestingly, it tracks the history of ratings, so you can see the trend in ratings for a show, actor, movie, video game, etc... The idea (I guess?) is that Nielsen ratings are inaccurate and don't measure how many people watch and more importantly, how passionate about a show someone is. It doesn't have it right, at least not yet. It needs more granular selections for items. For example--I accurately mark "Lost" with "I watch this show" but I would also accurately mark "Meet The Press" the same way. But nowhere am I able to say that I don't miss one episode of Lost, and tend to watch them more than once on my DVR, as opposed to watching Meet the Press once a month, if that. Still, it is promising as an outlet for cult followers of shows like Journeyman to express their love. Maybe a network notices and picks up a show like that. Check out my ratings widget on the right side of this blog...

Download Firefox 3 Now

Today is the day! Download Firefox 3!

Download Day - English

Monday, June 16, 2008

iTraffic from iPod and iPhone--Thanks Apple!

I was just looking over my blog's traffic stats since I started it six months ago. I noticed that whenever I write something about an iPod or iPhone, my traffic volume doubles or even triples. In fact, this one post entitled "The Next iPod Killer.... Literally" which was about a combination MP3-player/Tazer device (and doesn't even mention Apple, the iPod, or the iPhone directly) accounts for a third of the total lifetime traffic to my (admittedly low profile) blog. I understand why, with the cult following behind these devices. I myself am guilty of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on the Engadget and Gizmodo live blog pages on my browser during the Steve Jobs' Apple WWDC iPhone 3G announcement last week. Moving forward, I guess that I should make sure to pepper my posts with the words iPod and Apple and iPhone.

I will continue to write about the iPhone, iPod and its bretheren here on this blog as I always have. In the future, look for even more--Look for my impressions of movies to incorporate the iPod. What do you think of this sample? "Hulk Incredible on the iPod"? Hey, let's treat this post as an experiment. I'll post the traffic results soon. iPod iPhone iPod iPhone iPod iTunes.

Incidentally, my next highest traffic volume comes from my posts about Journeyman. I guess that Journeyman and the iPod have something in common--people who follow them do so with freakish passion.

Vid of Week 2008-06-16: Old Glory Robot Insurance

From SNL. Sam Waterson is a riot.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day: June 17, 2008

Help Firefox set the record for most downloads in one day! Mark your calendars and download Firefox 3 on June 17.

Download Day - English

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Righteous Pairing

Godfather II was a lifetime ago. Heat wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but Pacino and De Niro only had a couple of minutes of shared screen time that was most certainly forced into the script. In Righteous Kill, they both play cops, and are partners. Wow. September can't come soon enough. This movie is going to be awesome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0: Less Valuable in the 'Burbs

David Pogue reminded me of all of the shortcomings of the newly announced 3G and GPS enabled iPhone. One that I didn't think of--AT&T's highly touted 3G network is only available in major metropolitan areas. Fortunately, I happen to live in one. But if you don't, make sure that you understand that before you buy one.

Monday, June 9, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Announced @ Apple WWDC

No big surprise there. And even some of my predictions came true--everything but the video calling. My favorite part--the $199 price tag. I think I may have to get me one...

TV Hits New Lows

The 2006 Mike Judge/Luke Wilson comedy Idiocracy featured a futuristic world where the collective IQ is significantly lower and the most popular television program is called "Ow! My Balls!". Upping the ante on the fictional-reality show is the actual-reality show Hurl offered by the G4 network Unbelieveable. I hope that they yank this off the air before any intelligent space aliens pick it up and determine that we are unworthy to share the meaning of life. The show, by the way, is not to be confused with the decidedly more intelligent and socially-meaningful HURL and Hurl.

Incidentally, Idiocracy is a scathing look at American culture that is definitely worth renting if you haven't seen it. Read more about it here.

Vid of the Week 2008-06-09: Evernote Demo

I have been using it for a few weeks now. I used Microsoft's OneNote for a while, but I found something better and free. Though it took some getting used to, I am totally hooked. Evernote is a way cool application.... Check out this demo video and sign up for the beta.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Google Heart Apple

Interesting Mac things going on at Google. I'm not sure that the CNET author's Apple-Google merger suggestion makes sense, but the story is interesting, plus I can't wait to try out Google's open source apps for the Mac that were mentioned in the article.

iPhone Wishlist from CR

Consumer Reports Magazine posted a pretty good list of what they would like to see in the next-gen iPhone. I agree with all of it...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Next Generation iPhone Will Include...

With iPhone supplies dwindling and Apple's Worldwide Development Conference (WWDC) scheduled to start June 9, many are predicting the intorduction of the next generation iPhone. I believe that to be true, but that's no revelation. The question is, what will the next gen iPhone include? I believe that it will (as many have predicted) be thinner and support AT&T's 3G network (which AT&T has been rushing to finish, possibly in anticipation of the next-gen iPhone release). Anything else? Here's what I hope will be a part of the second gen iPhone:

  • Worse battery life. Yes, you read that right. 3G networks are power hogs.
  • More location-driven applications (a la, "Find local restaurants")
  • A Whizbang iPhone SDK--so we'll start to see independant vendors and basement hackers building iPhone apps
  • Here's the big guess--Video calling......