Some of the wonderful things rattling around in this full brain 'o mine. UPDATED EVERY TUESDAY AND THURSDAY (or at least twice a week)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

TV Ratings – Why oh Why won’t someone do something better than Nielson?

You know, it’s amazing. The things that get cancelled on TV. Great great shows, like Firefly, Family Guy (the first time around), and now something great, like Studio 60 will probably be cancelled to be replaced by some other stupid reality show, or another mobster show, or another guilty pleasure show.

Why do things get cancelled? Well…they don’t make the ratings pop. Funny thing is though, I believe there’s a big enough audience out there for shows like this…I just don’t think the ratings are collected in such a way to measure that. The precedent for this is Family Guy. The show was cancelled because it wasn’t a big enough boon for Fox. That’s fine. Except that the audience was there…it started getting big ratings on Cartoon Network, and in syndication. It scored huge when it started selling seasons on DVD. That’s what brought it back to TV.

Heck, Firefly was so popular on DVD, that Universal funded a full-fledged feature film, which I’m also willing to bet bombed at the box office (even though I went and saw it), but has more than held it’s own on DVD.

These shows are still being cancelled though…mostly because of the ratings…otherwise known as the Nielson Ratings.

Based on HowStuffWorks, here’s what Nielson currently does:

They call up 5000 households representing a suitable representative sample of the entire 99 Millions households that have TVs (that’s .005% for those of you keeping track) and ask each of these households if they can be sampled either by keeping a TV watching diary, or by having a device attached to their TV or cable box to keep track of what they watch. Then, once the data is gathered, it’s extrapolated to represent the entire TV watching population. Keep in mind, this sample has to be good enough to cover the entire gambit of demographic groups, meaning every type of minority, and every age group.

This may have worked in the past…but come on. Where’s the love for sports bars watching sporting events like the NCAA Tournament, college dorm rooms, gyms with TV’s in them, and people who digitally record their shows to watch later. To their own credit, Nielson has started tracking Tivo usage…but the show only gets credit if it’s watched within the same 24 hour period it’s recorded in. Unfortunately, this period starts and ends at 3am each morning. So…the girlfriend and I always record shows like Medium and Studio 60 because we want to be asleep by the time they’re over. If we were being “sampled” (sounds kinda like being probed), we would have to watch the show before 3am (when we’re still sleeping) to qualify to give the show our rating point. I’m sorry…that’s just ridiculous.

A Better Alternative?
It’s sitting there, in your living room. It has the ability to record and send the data back to it’s source. Yes, I’m talking about your cable box or satellite box. Some of them are DVR enabled, and some aren’t. I’m betting though that it wouldn’t be that hard to come up with a program that runs inside that wondrous box that would enable you to be “sampled” so that your opinion would count. Cable companies could build it into their systems, and just ask when you sign up “Would you like to participate in ratings research by allowing us to gain data on what you’re watching?” I know I’d be willing to sign up and give over my age, gender, how much I make, my eye color, my shoe size, my hobbies, etc to be able to be polled. Heck, why not make it like websites. You’d get hits, and then minutes stayed (equivalent to pageviews).

Companies have tried. Companies like Cableclik, SMART TV, and ErinMedia. Problem is, the large networks all back Nielson because…well, probably because Nielson ratings back them. Nielson’s extremely expensive, so it can’t be because these other startups would be more expensive. To say that Nielson is a monopoly…well, that might be correct. There certainly isn’t an easy path to any contenders with better technology and better ideas. Mostly, Nielson is content to sit back on their laurels, only really trying new ideas and innovations with technology when really challenged by a would be competitor. Hopefully someone will pony up the goods to get something better soon. Otherwise, we’ll soon be treated to nothing but Reality TV and Gameshows exposing the ignorance and stupidity of our country when measured against Kindergartners.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Prophet of Garbage

Joseph Longo's Plasma Converter turns our most vile and toxic trash into clean energy—and promises to make a relic of the landfill

read more digg story

Ah, alternative energy sources. Why don’t they get more R&D funding? Why hasn’t the government pushed to find more things like Joseph Longo’s Plasma Converter?

Joseph had a great idea, put trash in, incinerate that trash breaking it down into it’s elemental components (plasma gasification), with the only outputs being a synthesis gas that can be refined to a multitude of different fuels, and an “obsidian-like glass used as a raw material for numerous applications, including bathroom tiles and high-strength asphalt.” Sounds pretty good. Almost too good to be true…why hasn’t this caught on before now?

Turns out it has. Based on the article, the US Army was the first to buy a Plasma Converter…10 years ago. Seems for the most part, it hasn’t been monetarily responsible to buy and run one, what with the energy costs to run the converter. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, with rising gasoline and fuel costs, and the cost to keep buying land to fill with garbage combined with the increased waste from heavily populated areas (like New York), these Plasma Converters have now become feasible to buy and run.

The next logical question is the same with most alternative energies that are researched…will the bureaucrats in government who get kickbacks from those who make money on the old, inefficient, and environmentally unsafe processes let something like this proceed? Based on the article, it looks like New York’s going to give it a try, and a lot of more responsible and less greedy countries already have their orders in for their converters.

Got any other interesting alternative energy articles out there? Let me know, I’d love to blog them and get them on digg!

Friday, March 23, 2007 – Making Money Online and Giving Away Wii’s

Do you know John Chow? You might if you’ve ever searched for the term “Make Money Online” on Google…like this. At the time of writing this, John Chow’s Blog is currently #4 on the search list.

The main purpose of this particular blarticle is that John’s running a contest in conjunction with (they make promotional pens) to give away a Nintendo Wii by writing a blog post about said contest. Sidebar: it’s easy to sign up for this contest…just write a blog posting about it within the given rules, or if you don’t have a blog, get one and write a blog posting within the given rules. ^_^

There…now that that’s done. Let’s give a little more info on why I know about Johno’s site…

Back in the time before time (read: before I started writing this blog), I used to have the idea that I would be alright at blogging…but I didn’t really have the motivation. John provided that with the first blarticle of his I read: an update on how much money he had made with his blog. I thought it was interesting. Here was a guy who obviously had been blogging for a long time. He had built up interest with it. He had a dedicated readership, and he turned it into cash. Granted…he’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t start the blog with the intention of making money from it…it’s just a nice side product.

Anyway, he blogs about a multitude of different topics and I always find something interesting when I go to visit. I highly recommend!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

SpaceX Successfully Launches Falcon 1 Rocket

Privately owned space exploration company SpaceX moments ago successfully launched its Falcon 1 rocket. The rocket was developed entirely by SpaceX. According to company founder Elon Musk, who previously co-founded Zip2 and PayPal, the Falcon 1’s success will drive the cost of space access down “ultimately by a factor of 10.”

read more digg story

Sounds like something out of Star Trek, doesn’t it? This was a pretty interesting article about how the company SpaceX, founded and funded by “Elon Musk, who previously co-founded Zip2 and PayPal” had successfully launched a rocket into orbit. A privately owned and funded space exploration company….

My first thought was “That’s pretty friggin cool.”

My second thought was “Why on Earth would anyone waste their money on this?”

Look, I get it. Well…some of it. I get it from the point of being a geek, and if I had billions of dollars to waste, why not waste it on something cool like leading up to the development and launching of spacecraft. Musk is only worth a couple of hundred million though. Truth be told, I don’t think he’ll make any money off this venture either.

True, there are contracts out there to get…for some stuff. You could get government contracts to develop satellite tech that will help improve daily life, or war capabilities. But, as far as making money from spacecraft contracts…I don’t know if that’ll happen. I’m willing to bet that even if they got into competing for government dollars, this wouldn’t be as great of an investment as it would have been some 30 years ago at the height of the Cold War where every country was trying to get to space…just to get to space. Now that the Cold War has cooled to the point of non-existence, I’m willing to bet the available funds to compete over aren’t nearly as plentiful.

On the flip side, privately owned and operated space exploration companies could be good from the fact that they’re going to look to stay efficient and not get fat on government monies like the space government agencies have. They’re going to consistently look for better and more cost effective ways to get to space, and then make their money back selling that technology not only to our government, but to whichever government that can pay their price. I’m sure if you came to the US government with some highly efficient and cost effective space tech that you developed, and you told them that Iran had just invested 100’s of millions in buying it, they’d be right behind with check in hand. Based on the article, just launching this rocket into space has allowed SpaceX to procure “hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts.” Good for them!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cheap Golf!!!

You know, you can’t really go wrong with cheap golf, if you can find it. The hardest part is finding it. Especially if you’re new to the area you’re looking to golf in, it really helps to find sites that will show you quickly who has tee times available in the time frame you’re looking for.
Below there are a couple of sites that allow you to get discounted golf tee times online:

Golf Now
Set your county. Search by entering Dates, % Savings, Players, Morning or Afternoon Tee Times
Generally save anywhere from 10 – 33%.
You search your area, and it will list all tee times available for that day at all courses offering any deals.

EZ Links
Search area, input date, tee time wanted.

Search area, input date, tee time wanted.

All show amenities: carts, 9 or 18, GPS, free range balls, etc.

These sites and the system aren’t perfect though. There are a couple of things to keep in mind and do to protect yourself.

1) If you’re trying to book golf for the weekend, try and make your reservation online early in the week. Wednesday at the latest. Usually, to get the best usage, these sites ask you to look 8 days in advance.

2) Print out your receipt! Always make sure you print out your online receipt upon completing your purchase. The Girlfriend and I met a pair of ladies who hadn’t printed their receipt, and the golf course had no record of their online reservation. Thankfully, the course knew them and was nice enough to honor their discounted price and their tee time…but I wouldn’t expect that to be the rule.

Above all else, sometimes the best way to get a deal is to call. Especially if you have people visiting, I’ve known some Pro Shops give discounted golf just based on getting new people into the facility and generate good word of mouth. Remember, it can’t hurt to ask, the worst thing they can say is “No.”

Friday, March 16, 2007

Success of 300: Internet Marketing or Sky Captain?

I can’t wait to go see 300. Me and the Girlfriend are going tonight on the IMAX, that’s to be sure. I was geeked for it months ago based on my residual comic fandom. Fortunately, my geeked feeling wasn’t just my own as the movie took in an astonishing $70+ million dollars opening weekend, providing the largest opening March weekend take ever, and almost beating out the Matrix Reloaded, and the Passion of the Christ for biggest R opening weekends ever.

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons this movie is doing well, but one particular reason has been pointed out in a couple of articles and blarticles that I thought was pretty interesting…

The Internet. Harry from points out some numbers from movie polls that an amazing 60% of people who went to the regular theater to see the movie last weekend went because of internet marketing. That number jumped higher to 68% for the people who went to see it in the IMAX theaters. An article from Time Magazine online has this listed as the first of seven good reasons why 300 has been successful. Of course, the Time article also has homosexual worship as the number seven reason the movie is successful.

Anyway, internet marketing is still pretty hit or miss at this point. I don’t think I need to mention Snakes on a Plane to anyone. Also though, the Blair Witch Project was mainly a success based on underground internet marketing. Regardless, I do think there is some sort of usefulness for a full-on internet marketing campaign. It’s just as easy, if not easier to hit your target audience as TV marketing. It’s bound to add some to your bottom line, if not in your box office, to your DVD rental and purchase numbers.

I think there’s something people are missing though in how great of a success 300 will be. I’ve always thought a “success” was getting a great return on your buck. The main movie that always pops into mind is Phone Booth. I’m going to throw a bunch of numbers at y’all here, so just to tell you beforehand, I got them from The Numbers website. It’s a great little website to look up production costs, and grosses.

Anyway, Phone Booth cost $11 mill to produce. That’s pennies compared to some of these budgets now-a-days. The advertising cost another $25 mill. US Gross? Almost $47 mill and another $98 mill worldwide. That’s pretty good return for a $36 million dollar project. Still…Phone Booth was more a character driven vehicle. It was a more intimate story. How could you get the scale of 300 from that type of budget?

Enter Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I remember being fascinated by that film. Not because it looked hella cool…which it did, and upon seeing it, I thought it was really good. It was because of the technology used to create it though. The film was shot entirely green screen. Effects were added later via a computer program that the creator had developed. It all started there. The ability to have a small $70 mill dollar budget, but to create films that looked like they cost 100’s of millions of dollars. Sky Captain didn’t set the world on fire at the box office…but it made it’s money back. Then came Sin City. Same type of scenario, but with better source material, and a more famous director and actors. Production costs? $40 mill. US Box Office? $74 million dollars. These two movies specifically paved the way for anyone to get a movie as ambitious as 300 off the ground and running. Now, we have 300, with a $60 million dollar budget, and it pays off big with a big opening. These successes allow studios to take risks on directors and projects that would otherwise be two shaky to guarantee a success. Thankfully, in the world of skyrocketing budgets upwards of $200 million plus…these films provide a ray of hope that otherwise too expensive films (like 300, Sin City, Sin City 2) will find light.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

MPAA Wants New Rating For 'Hard R' - otherwise known as "Parents too lazy to give a crap"

"MPAA chairman Dan Glickman is trying to find a new rating that will group together the movies that currently tip the dirtier scale of the R-rating -- the 'hard R' films that contain copious amounts of nudity, the f-word every three seconds, or gruesome torture-horror imagery, for instance."
read more digg story

So…the debate rages on. Apparently, parents now want something to dictate when they’re letting their children see a “soft R” versus a “hard R” film. I’m sorry, doesn’t this already exist? It’s called NC-17, but unfortunately, most rental chains, and movie theaters won’t carry these films anymore. Mostly, it’s because if it’s NC-17 rated, people often assume it as a smut fest. The last movie I can think of that created any sort of buzz being NC-17 was Showgirls. Mostly because it was so horrible. I remember watching it years later (not my idea) and thinking, “This was NC-17?” It really wasn’t any worse that most other movies I saw as R growing up.

This gets me thinking though…instead of adding another rating, why not just start enforcing the ratings that are already in place. From the MPAA Website:

“This rating declares that the Rating Board believes this is a film that most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not necessarily mean obscene or pornographic; in the oft-accepted or legal meaning of those words. The Board does not and cannot mark films with those words. These are legal terms for courts to decide. The reasons for the application of an NC-17 rating can be excessive violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.”

Interesting, in that sense, then most of the following films probably should have been NC-17:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Sin City
Saving Private Ryan
And other films of their ilk.

Just for fun, here are the definitions of PG-13 and R:

“PG-13 is thus a sterner warning to parents, particularly when deciding which movies are not suitable for younger children. Parents, by the rating, are alerted to be very careful about the attendance of their under-teenage children. A PG-13 film is one which, in the view of the Rating Board, leaps beyond the boundaries of the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, or other contents, but does not quite fit within the restricted R category. Any drug use content will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. In effect, the PG-13 cautions parents with more stringency than usual to give special attention to this film before they allow their 12-year-olds and younger to attend. If nudity is sexually oriented, the film will generally not be found in the PG-13 category. If violence is too rough or persistent, the film goes into the R (restricted) rating. A film's single use of one of the harsher sexually derived words, though only as an expletive, shall initially require the Rating Board to issue that film at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive must lead the Rating Board to issue a film an R rating, as must even one of these words used in a sexual context. These films can be rated less severely, however, if by a special vote, the Rating Board feels that a lesser rating would more responsibly reflect the opinion of American parents.

I love the following part:
“PG-13 places larger responsibilities on parents for their children and movie going. The voluntary rating system is not a surrogate parent, nor should it be. It cannot, and should not, insert itself in family decisions that only parents can make. Its purpose is to give pre-screened informational warnings, so that parents can form their own judgments. PG-13 is designed to make parental decisions easier for films between PG and R.”

“In the opinion of the Rating Board, this film definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film before they allow their children to accompany them. An R-rated film may include strong language, violence, nudity, drug abuse, other elements, or a combination of the above, so parents are counseled in advance to take this advisory rating very seriously. “

Hmm. Compared to the other ratings, R leaves the most open interpretation. Probably by design. I remember working at the movie theater and having to have parents by their kids tickets to R rated films. I also remember a time when we couldn’t let any child in under the age of 18 to an R film, unless their parent was specifically going with them to it.

Basically, the R-rating is there to let parents know that they should take an extremely close look before allowing their kids to go see these movies. To that fact, the MPAA does a decent job. They don’t often hand out NC-17 ratings to movies undeserving, and they’ll work with the studios to get a certain rating. Example, I remember reading an article interview Mark Steven Johnson where he mentioned they could only have one great transformation scene in Ghost Rider to keep the PG-13 rating they were going for. Turns out the MPAA frowns upon people being on fire and having their skin melted off. Understandable.

Bottom line, those ratings are their for a reason folks. I again put this on the parents. If you’re going to let your kids go to R movies, then find out why they’re rated R in the first place. Start with any movie website (like They show the rating, and there’s usually a short blurb from the MPAA telling why this movie is rated as such.

R for brutal scenes of torture and violence, strong sexual content, language and drug use.

Star Wars: Episode III
PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.

Batman Begins:
PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
R for pervasive extreme drug use and related bizarre behavior, strong language, and brief nudity.

I know those are gross generalizations, but if you’re a parent, and you still don’t get it, then go ask the people at the movie theater. Odds are, out of any 4 people working at the theater at any given time, together they’ve seen every movie in their theater. That’s the reason they work there in the first place, free movies. Ask them, they’ll tell you if there’s anything particularly disturbing, or bloody, or nude in the movie. All you have to do is ask.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

d3o: Futuristic Armor

I remembered this story last year about new uniforms for skiers being used in the Olympics incorporating d3o panels into the uniforms to make them lighter and more comfortable. Thought it might be worth revisiting.

The below is an example of some of the uniforms used by skiers. Usually they have to wear some sort of protection along the legs and arms in case they hit the poles as they go past.

Then came d3o. What is d3o? Well, straight from the manufacturer, the d3o lab, “d3o technology is a specially engineered material with intelligent molecules that flow with you as you move but on shock lock together to absorb impact energy.”

Here it is explained a little deeper:

Not only do they use this in skiing equipment, but also gloves (like soccer goalie gloves or motorcycle glove) and they’ve done some testing in shoes. Sounds pretty cool.

Looking at their existing and upcoming products you have to wonder about the possibilities. Their athletic testing team includes a wide range of sports, including soccer, mountain biking, snowboarding, and strangely enough, something called mountain boarding. The possible uses for such a material are limitless though…especially once you get into the more widely funded American markets such as baseball, football, and hockey.

Barry Bonds wouldn’t look so much like Robocop just strapping on some d3o armor instead of his bionic arm he uses now.

More importantly, football and hockey players would be that much faster with the lightweight and tough material worked into their armor.

Also, there could be a lot more useful uses than just sports such as construction safety equipment (work gloves, hard hats) and perhaps more importantly police and armed forces armor (I wonder how this stuff would do against a bullet). It certainly couldn’t hurt to try.

Of course, what with stuff like this already available, and the invisibility cloak and spider-man material, I think we’re only one rich guy (Bruce Wayne) away from our first actual superhero. ^_^

What do you think would be the best application of this material?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Ghost Rider and Bad Comic Movies – Who’s to Blame?

I have to admit. I’ve been haunted by Ghost Rider. When it came out a couple of weeks ago, I was going to review it. I took the girlfriend to it on Friday night. I was even looking forward to it. I had dodged all reviews beforehand. Here was a movie of a comic character I wasn’t that wrapped up in. I have Ghost Rider comics in my collection, but I’ve never been rabid about the character. I loved the Johnny Blaze character though. I thought that visually the movie could look cool. Mark Steven Johnson had done a good job on Daredevil. I thought he hit the tone of that character. I was expecting a scary, supernatural story about hitting the lowest of the low, and then redemption. I knew that Nic Cage had long wanted to do a comic movie, and I thought that finally given his chance he would do good things. I also thought that, given Nic being a huge comic geek at heart, he would treat the character in the correct way and stand up for things that were wrong.

Well…it turns out I was the one who was wrong.

I experienced things in that theater I never wanted to experience watching a comic book movie. I laughed. I rolled my eyes. My girlfriend laughed. I threw my hands up in the air.

I was dejected for a loooong time after seeing Ghost Rider. I was somewhat encouraged reading Harry’s review at His review pretty much sums up what I’d like to say about Ghost Rider. I thought it was bad. I think I’d rate it barely at ** out of *****. That’s two out of five. That’s pretty much the lowest I’ve rated any comic movie…except Elektra. I’d give that lower.

Anyway, I was somewhat encouraged by Harry’s Review…but then something happened. Too many damn people went to see it. It took in $52 mill it’s first weekend. “It’s ok.” I thought. People will let each other know how horrible it is. Didn’t happen. It made $20 mill it’s second weekend. “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?” I thought. It’s kind of a standard rule that new franchises will get sequels if they make that mythical $100 million dollar plateau. In Ghost Rider’s 3rd weekend, it made $11.5 million dollars bringing its total to almost $95 million dollars. For a crappy movie. It’ll break that $100 million dollar barrier and a sequel is already in the cards.


How could a movie this bad do this well? It hurts because, I love comic characters. I collected comics for over 20 years. I read and lived and grew up with these characters that we’re seeing come to the screen at a record pace now. It hit a high point early in my life with Batman (1989), but then went downhill with it’s sequels, until restarting hope again with Blade, which led to the X-men, and then to Spider-Man. All those hits led to DC restarting the Superman and Batman franchises recently. Still…we’ve had some pretty decent adaptations not get sequels, while crap like Ghost Rider is getting a sequel.

Who’s to blame?

I needed to look at the data to be sure what I was thinking was correct. My hypothesis was that the movies that stayed closest to the heart of the intended characters did the best box office wise, and should have warranted sequels. I was wrong. Let me lay it out for you:

Here are the comic movies I could think of since the Batman days. I know there are omissions and I’m sorry. I think I hit all the major ones though. The movies are sorted by year and the title. The two movies with *’s, those weren’t listed with critics reviews from Yahoo Movies. The critics reviews and user reviews were taken from the A+ thru F scale, and I correlated them to numbers. I added my own review numbers and then averaged the reviews. I added a column to show whether or not the movie, for the most part, hit the tone of the character, in my opinion. The total box office and rating is also included.

Then I started playing with the numbers to find out which movies do the best.

Out of the average reviews, here’s what I found:

As you can see…the numbers are all over the place. All but the worst reviewed films get over $100 million dollars. You can see a definite trend, the B+ and B movies made about $50-60 mill more than the C, C+ and B- movies. The only A- movies on the list for average reviews are Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2.

So, besides a very general trend…not much there.

How about tone? The “Tone Wrong” movies were the ones I thought were furthest from where they should have been. These are the biggest transgressors in my opinion: Batman and Robin, Blade Trinity, Punisher (2004), Elektra, and Ghost Rider.

Hm. They still averaged a decent 62.5 mill at the box office, whereas movies like the Crow, and Hellboy did less than that. Of course, those are lesser known characters, and Batman and Robin and Blade Trinity are sequels of established franchises.

Ok. How about established franchises?

Comic sequels (Batman sequels, Blade sequels, X-men sequels and Spider-Man sequel) averaged $175.8 million. I didn’t count Batman Begins or Superman Returns, since those are reboots of the franchises. The original films (Batman, Blade, X-men, and Spider-Man) averaged $220.4 million dollars. This number is a bit skewed by the biggies (Batman and Spider-Man). So…this result goes against the logic that the sequels do better than the originals.

Alright…how about 2nd tiered characters vs. 1st tier characters.

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-men, Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Those are the biggies. Their movies averaged out to $213.5 million at the box office. The rest of the movies averaged out to $65.5 million. There’s a distinct correlation there. Still, those biggies are the ones that contain the most mass appeal. They’re the most well known. They hit home the easiest. I still maintain that a good chunk of the reason for the success of Spider-Man wasn’t all about the action and effects. The character is someone most people can identify with. If you’re a teenager, who hasn’t fantasized about being a secret superhero? That’s one of the main misses with the 90’s Batman franchise. They had a distinct opportunity to bring Robin in as a kid, whom a lot of younger people could identify with, but they brought him in older. Of course…that’s not to say Schumacher wouldn’t have still ruined the franchise, but it could have helped.

Surprisingly, there has only been 1 lower tiered character to break the $100 million dollar barrier: Daredevil. I liked that movie a lot. I thought it was well done, hit the tone of the character, and the Director’s Cut of the movie is a heckuva lot better than the one released in theaters. Ghost Rider will break the mark, that’s for sure. Still…it’s bad, so why is it doing so good?

There were movies on the list that while tonally correct, were still pretty bad. Fantastic Four and Hulk and the Punisher come to mind. Granted, they’re not on par with being as horrible as Ghost Rider, but they come close. Punisher is the closest. I remember watching the movie, and literally only thinking that one or two scenes should have been included, and the rest thrown in the trash. Fantastic Four and the Hulk, they’re faithfully adapted for about half of their movies…mostly until the Arch-nemesis is revealed and fleshed out. Then they fall off the precipice down the crevasse of suck.

Please Please Please Dear God, all you movie studios, script writers, actors, directors, etc….remember: the hero of a film is only as good as his foil!

I still maintain and the Hulk movie should have been 90 minutes long and cut out everything having to do with Banner’s father gaining powers, etc. Have him fight his way out of the Army, have one last stare down with Sam Elliot, say goodbye to Jennifer Connelly, and jump off into the sky.

Fantastic Four is close as well, although a notch below the Hulk. Everything not dealing with Doom is decent, fun, and hits the tone of the comic book of the ultimate dis-functional family. They use teamwork when it counts.

It all comes back to tone though. The characters that are more well-known are able to stick with their tone more. 2nd tiered characters are forced to undergo a tonal shift so that they can be more widely accepted.

They tried to do this with the Punisher. He only pretend tortured that crook because you were supposed to root for him. Except that the Punisher is the ultimate anti-hero. He kills without remorse all the time, as long as they’re guilty in his eyes.

Elektra is an assassin who fights ninjas. She doesn’t have any super-powers. She’s a well-trained martial artist.

And Ghost Rider doesn’t learn to enjoy his alter-ego. He’s possessed. He’d do anything to get out of being possessed. He’s in pain when he transforms. He can’t control the Rider. He’s just a vessel. He gets possessed around evil beings, does his thing, and that’s it.

There’s one more set of numbers I’d like to throw out: Ratings.

Rated R comic movies averaged $63 million dollars while PG-13 ones averaged $180 million. That’s the final kicker.

When faced with a 2nd tiered character that the public doesn’t know, the studios will make the movie stick to a PG-13 rating, and make enough changes in the character so that the PG-13 kids will like it. Makes you wonder how they made Sin City, Hellboy, Constantine. I mean, I’d kill for a rated R Ghost Rider horror tale done by Del Toro. I’d kill for a rated R Daredevil sequel done by Fincher. And Punisher, still needs to be R, and the studio needs to let the character run wild. The body count needs to be in the hundreds, and the fights need to be like the Bourne Identity (vicious).

Conclusion: if these tonally correct and character faithful movies ever get made of these lesser known characters (I’m looking at you guys Flash and Ant-Man), no one will go see them. Studios will pay $60 mill to make the movie, another $40 mill to promote the film, and then the box office will come in around $70 mill. That’s why the chances of Jack Black starring as Green Lantern in a comedy will always be greater than a serious drug addict Green Arrow story.

Ultimately, who’s to blame? We are. The consumer. If we didn’t go to the crappy comic book movies, we wouldn’t get more crappy comic book movies.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Barenaked Ladies: New Album. Free. No DRM. Now.

As a follow up to my blarticle about DRM, check this out! Again BNL is leading the way in music and technology innovation by being one of the first bands being hosted on Amie St.

Market driven priced song downloads. Hopefully other labels will follow suit. Hang on tight though, this could be the path to the new revolution. 70% of the price paid goes directly to the artists.

See ya later iTunes.

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Black Snake Moan...

Well…I saw two movies with the girlfriend this last weekend…Zodiac and Black Snake Moan…I’ve decided to only review the better of the two, Black Snake Moan. Now…that’s not to say I didn’t like Zodiac. I actually liked it as much, but I’m a sucker for movies similar to it. I loved JFK, and Zodiac is kinda in the same vein, presenting so much evidence, that it’s going to take multiple viewings and a notebook of writings to really dissect what you’re seeing and getting all the players straight. So, I’ll revisit it again a couple of times upon DVD and I’m sure my love for the film will grow.

For those who care, I’d give Zodiac **** out of a possible *****.

Onto the main event: Black Snake Moan. This movie made only $4,143,199 in 1252 theaters this last weekend working out to $3309 per theater. In perspective, that was better than every movie in the top ten besides Zodiac at $5671 per theater, and Wild Hogs at $12078 per theater. I guess that just goes to show that you never bet against the drawing power of one Ray Liotta.

Anyway, let’s move onto the players. Black Snake Moan was written and directed by Craig Brewer best known for last year’s Oscar Nominated Best Movie: Hustle & Flow. Black Snake Moan is very much in the same vein, in that the story concentrates around an ethnic center, or in this case, where Hustle & Flow concentrated around one, Black Snake Moan concentrates on two. In Hustle & Flow, the audience watched and learned what it was like being a pimp in the hood. In Black Snake Moan, the audience gets taken on a journey through the south…encompassing everything from the Black South, to the Trailer Trash South, both of which are equally represented. Please keep in mind, there are spoilers ahead.

The audience follows the journey of two main characters: Lazarus, played by the excellent Samuel L. Jackson, and Rae, played by Christina Ricci. Mostly, you follow Lazarus living up to his name and rising from the ashes of his darkest hour to again find meaning in his life. His journey starts at the local cafĂ©, where you find his ex-wife informing him that she’s leaving town with her new man. His journey leads him to his local bar where you find that he used to rock the joint playing the blues. You also find out that his wife’s new man (his own brother) won’t leave town until they have Laz’s blessing. From there, you watch Laz sink lower and lower as he drinks more and more, culminating in him digging out his only other outlet in life, his guitar, and belting out a heartfelt blues tune.

Rae is in a different sort of trouble. Her boyfriend, played by the actually decent Justin Timberlake, is leaving town to join the service. He’s the only thing keeping her in line, he’s the only thing that keeps her from scratching the sexual itch she gets on way to many occasions. In fact, as soon as he’s gone, within 2 minutes of screen time, she’s being plowed by a different guy. She’s a nympho, to the N’th degree. There’s an certain sweetness underneath though, like she just needs to be saved, but she’s not quite sure how or who is really out there to help her besides her now estranged boyfriend. She hits rock bottom the same night as Laz. She ends up beaten, half naked, and on his front yard. The rest of the movie is about their journey to help each other get back to something nice and pure in their own lives.

This movie has everything. Music plays an important part, and by music, I mean the Blues. The soundtrack to the film is superior, and I aim to seek it out. There’s comedy: yes, Sam Jackson does pull Christina Ricci around by a chain. Christina Ricci does attack a certain young boy in the movie…and there is plenty of laughs from its’ affect. There’s drama and violence: I swear I thought Sam was going to bite it at the end. I mean, he’s had so many great deaths. For those in the audience who care…there is nudity. No Sam Jackson ass…but there’s plenty of other naked bodies running around. Finally, there is a decent ending. It’s along the same lines of the ending of Hustle & Flow….not totally a completely happy one…but there’s hope. Plenty of hope provided.

Overall, I give it **** out of *****’s. Go see it. You’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll like it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Motormobile…the Motorcycle for the average person?

I caught this story on digg and had to share it with everyone. I know this will interest at least one ready of my blog…

I almost wish I could live in Europe at least for the fact that they get all the cool-looking environmentally safe cars well before the US does (if we ever do). I remember seeing the Da Vinci Code last year, and thinking to myself “You know, I bet even your worthless butt could parallel park a Smart Car.” I thought they were a pretty good idea…but they didn’t seem to offer enough power or for that fact ability to travel long enough distances to make it worth it. Still…the idea of a smaller vehicle which would run on some sort of hybrid motor which is more efficient without the loss of significant power or range would be a great idea…

Enter: the VentureOne.

No, it’s not the Venture Brothers’ new vehicle for Season 3, it’s a new take on the Reliant Robin crossing a smaller automobile with new technology enabling the 3-wheeled vehicle to turn like a motorcycle. The vehicle can house up two people. It goes 0 – 60 mph in 6 seconds. It uses a hybrid motor that runs on gas, but that engine is constantly recharging a battery. As such, the vehicle gets 100 miles on 1 gallon of gas. It’s a big enough vehicle to still be safe but, at 11 foot long and thinner than a Mini Cooper, you can actually drive two VentureOnes side by side on a one-lane road.

In the article, they point out that this vehicle is far more like a motorcycle, but with amenities like that of a car. It’s entirely enclosed, it offers heat and air conditioning, a stereo, etc.

Being that the vehicle crosses both, I could easily see this turning into the new BMW or Mercedes for those corporate people who still want to maintain their “edge” or “bad-boy image.” If made safe enough to pass safety standards in the US, this vehicle would make an impact. Imagine being able to travel between lanes of cars, like motorcycles do now in Cali, during a traffic jam. With a top speed of 100mph, I’m sure you could modify one of these to be a new type of highly efficient police vehicle as well. Heck, modify it enough, and you’d have a whole brand new type of auto racing for all of America to enjoy.

Personally, I could see it as our bridge vehicle to the future. I’m sure all the Al Gore’s of the world would love the possible positive affects on the environment. This could make a significant impact on our use of fossil fuels to power our everyday vehicles. I wonder if you could make the VentureOne off of ethanol or some other alternative fuel?

Best of all? It looks damn cool. I want one. What do you think? Let me know in comments!