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Saturday, August 30, 2008

LimeWire doubles music library; almost no one notices

LimeWire's DRM-free MP3 store will soon begin offering more than twice as much music as it currently does, thanks to a deal with independent music distributor The Orchard. The company's contributions from smaller labels and indie artists will add some 1.2 million tracks to LimeWire, bringing the available total to over 2 million. With the noticeable absence of any major labels and nary a unique feature, however, LimeWire is unlikely to become a big name in the online music biz anytime soon.

"The Orchard's top flight, broad and diverse music repertoire will enrich our users' music-buying experience," LimeWire CFO Jesse Rubenfeld said in a statement. "I believe this partnership will help expand the digital music market for us and will equally benefit our artist and label partners."

The addition of so many smaller artists may help LimeWire gain a slightly stronger foothold among the other music stores that are known for their indie selections, like eMusic and Amie Street. We're not convinced that it will help expand the company's share of the overall digital music market.

LimeWire first introduced its DRM-free music store in April of this year, selling legit tracks on the web while still keeping up its P2P network alive and well on the desktop. At the time, we found selection to be lacking—there were only half a million MP3s to choose from, almost entirely from independent labels and none whatsoever from the Big Four labels. Even among the somewhat well-known artists on the site (like those available through Nettwerk Productions), there weren't many songs. LimeWire simply didn't have a lot of ammo to compete against the big dogs—iTunes or Amazon MP3—or even smaller dogs, which at least offer more features than LimeWire.

Limewire screenshotAnd therein lies the problem. With a limited selection (although today's deal will help—a little), no unique features, and LimeWire's flourishing P2P network, why would anyone choose to buy legit music from LimeWire? As long as P2P continues to be what LimeWire is known for, it's going to remain difficult to land deals with major labels. And with nothing more than a handful of tracks from those popular artists, the masses will not come when they have so many other options.

Original here

10 Geeky Movies to Raise Your Kids On

Pco1013In our never-ending quest to provide you the tools and knowledge to raise your kids in your own geeky image, we present you with a list of 10 geeky movies to raise your kids with. This is a starter list, and by no means comprehensive. It also skews towards the younger set because we have to lay the proper geeky foundation. As always, leave your suggestions for additional titles in the comments.

1. Star Wars: You must, MUST! I say, start your child our with Episode IV: A New Hope. Diligence is key, brothers and sisters, and while your kids will probably enjoy even the new trilogy for it's grand spectacle, they must be brought into the fold the right way. Isn't it a thousand times better to fall in love with the non-verbal pluckiness of R2-D2 in New Hope, and then cheer when he pops up in Phantom Menace? I knew you'd agree.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone: The Potter movies are this generation's Star Wars trilogy, and so far, ALL of them have been well-done. The first is a perfect introduction to the world, in a more kid-friendly Chris Columbus way, and makes for a great way to get your kids into all sorts of fantasy literature later. I'll also take my lumps now: I'm *not* putting LOTR on this list because I don't think it's for younger kids - too long for them, and in cases too scary and violent. It'll definitely make the second list, for your Geeky Tweens, though, so have no fear.

3. The Last Starfighter: This is the film from our youth that did the first, and maybe best, job of arguing that being good at videogames could be worthwhile in other aspects of your life (like being able to save the universe someday). They early CG was pretty darned good, too. Classic tale of the downtrodden geeky kid getting to find out they're special, and live out a wish fulfillment.

Totoro 4. My Neighbor Totoro: All Miyazaki is wonderful, with a beauty and spirit we seldom see in American-produced animation (Iron Giant counts as an exception to that statement). I chose Totoro because it's the most accessible for a child, I think (Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are a bit too scary in parts). The imaginary friend angle appeals to every young-at-heart parent, as well. If you can get your kid in love with this, then follow up with Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Nausicaa.

5. Time Bandits: Another great story of wish-fulfillment for a downtrodden kid, but this one has a merry band of miscreant little-people, time-travel, Sean Connery, John Cleese, and David Warner. Plus, it sets them up for Brazil and all the Monty Python oeuvre as they get older.

More after the break.

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The Dark Crystal: The best pure-fantasy movie out there for younger kids, period. There are no human characters in the film at all (yes, I know, they're all puppets), but we still get attached to them and sucked into their world. An also-ran here would be Neverending Story, but I'd put Labyrinth in the tweens list for next time.

WarGames: You could argue for WarGames to be on the tweens list as well, but I like it here because the kids will connect with the computer angle, the being ignored by grown-ups angle. I also like the idea of starting them young with a sense of the government and military being important, but not always bad. Let's just pretend the "sequel" that's out on DVD now never happened, okay?

Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang: The technicolor American musical in all its splendor, with Dick van Dyke at his prime, and a magical car. The breakfast machine in the beginning should inspire many a Maker, and I always revel in noticing Desmond Llewelyn (original Q in the Bond movies - this was an Ian Fleming story, after all!), and Benny Hill as the toymaker.

Goonies Goonies: The perfect geek-gang adventure story with home-made gadgets, pirates, treasure and all, this movie also helps reinforce finding and sticking to friendships. The talk about a sequel for this movie, with most or all of the original cast, really gets me excited (just like the Tr2n footage).

Back to the Future: The best way to initiate your kids into the joys of time-travel stories, and the joys of all things Christopher Lloyd. This is one of those cases where the whole series is enjoyable and family-friendly, and the great geeky repeatable dialog will keep you amused for a long time. Hello, McFly?!?!

So, what do you think? Any other great geeky starter movies for our kids? Let us know!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Colbert: The Repo Man Is Gonna Miss Bush

On last night's Colbert Report, Stephen cut through all of the doom and gloom of the Democratic Convention by profiling someone who's flourishing in the current economy: A repo man.




Others who are probably doing well these days include unemployment-office workers, squatters, pan-handle makers, trashcan-fire emporiums, tumble-weed manufacturers and super-villains.

Original here

5 Former Music Badasses Who’ve Lost Their Way

In Web Roundups by Adam Brown

The idea of rock star as rebel dates at least as far back as Elvis and his girl-baiting hips on the Ed Sullivan Show. As pervasive as the rock and roll badass is, even more prevalent is the rock star decline from badass to mild-mannered musician.

Today, we look back on five musicians who once typified everything that was dangerous and threatening about music but eventually went on to be a sad, soft, shell of their former selves. Hey hey, my my.

  • Ice Cube

    Who He Was: As a founding member of the seminal west coast gangster rap group N.W.A., Ice Cube reached certified bad ass status at an age when most of us are still trying to have sex for the first time. By the time he left N.W.A. over a contract dispute in 1989, he had penned lyrics controversial enough to generate a letter from the FBI.

    You would think it couldn't get much more awesome than that. You'd be wrong. His solo debut, Amerikkka's Most Wanted, while hailed as a groundbreaking classic within the rap media, was widely reviled by the rock media and general public for its blatantly misogynist and homophobic lyrics. The controversy clearly got to him and he toned things down on his second album, Death Certificate, which included songs about sexually assaulting his former N.W.A. bandmates, burning down Korean owned grocery stores and filling in unknowing fathers about the sordid details of their daughter's exploits.

    Most Badass Moment: "No Vaseline" from the Death Certificate album, in which Cube spends five minutes singlehandedly destroying N.W.A., arguably the biggest rap group in the world at the time. They never released another album after this. I'm surprised they even left the house.

    Who He Is Now: Oh boy. Somewhere along the line, Ice Cube started making movies: badass movies. His acting debut in John Singleton's Boyz In the Hood was a surprisingly impressive performance in a gritty tale about growing up in the gang infested streets of South Central Los Angeles. Naturally, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays the pussy in the movie.

  • Once he was bitten by the acting bug, there was no turning back. With a renewed focus on thesbianism, his music suffered to the point that he eventually stopped making solo records altogether for awhile.

    At the same time, his movie roles went from playing the gangster with a heart to the conflicted hustler to the jovial barber that's still not to be f---ed with to...basically the black Tim Allen. Except, you know, Tim Allen actually spent some time in prison and whatnot.

    2005's Are We There Yet? was the final nail in the coffin for badass Ice Cube. He could put 50 Cent in a coma with a pair of nunchucks and it would not be enough to erase the fact that "the ni**a ya love to hate" is now trying to topple Will Smith as the most loveable black guy in America.

Least Badass Moment:

  • LL Cool J

    Who He Was Then: The name means "Ladies Love Cool James." But there was a time, long long ago, when the fellas also thought LL Cool J was pretty damn awesome. With the release of his first album Radio way back in 1985 (how old do you feel right now?) LL came out of the gates swinging. The hits "Radio" and "I Need a Beat" established LL as one of the fiercest up-and-coming MC's of his day. With the follow up album, Bigger and Deffer, LL not only further cemented his status as a top-notch lyricist, but he also revealed himself to be a battle rapper of the highest order.

    Following the album's release, "Uncle L" found himself in the midst of a beef with old school rapper Kool Moe Dee. Over the next couple of years, LL would out-rhyme, out-wit and out-ab his older adversary. This scenario would be repeated time and again with everyone from MC Hammer to Ice-T to Canibus. Challenge as they may, LL slayed them all.

    Most Badass Moment: "To Da Break of Dawn," an ungodly harsh diss track that took about four minutes to make Kool Moe Dee, MC Hammer and Ice-T all wish they had just stuck to their day jobs.

    Who He Is Now: These days, LL might as well be an R&B singer. As the years have gone by, he's taken the "Ladies Love" part of his name way too seriously. Granted, as the dude who basically invented the rap ballad, it's expected that his albums would incorporate some sort of ode to the ladies at some point. But somewhere around the mid-90's, LL took the 90% hard rhymes, 10% songs about chicks ratio and put that in reverse. These days, you're hard pressed to come across an LL single that doesn't feature some random R&B crooner singing the hook while LL rubs hot oil on his abs and licks his lips.

    Least Badass Moment: "Hey Lover" featuring, of all people, Boyz II Men.

    • James Hetfield

      Who He Was Then: Back in the 80's, some things just went without saying. Parachute pants were awesome. Bob Saget was the best dad ever. Another thing that everyone knew...James Hetfield was the baddest dude on earth.

      For the better part of the 80's, nobody rocked harder than Metallica. Beginning with their debut album Kill 'Em All, the band put together a string of albums that stand even today as some of the greatest metal ever committed to tape. And within Metallica, nobody lived harder than James Hetfield. When not busy slamming booze onstage and doubling Kirk Hammett on face melting guitar solos, Hetfield could be found pursuing some of his favorite leisure activities such as customizing cars, watching the Oakland Raiders and fencing Sabre. That last one isn't quite as awesome as it may seem, but damn if it doesn't sound pretty cool.

      Most Badass Moment: On stage in 1992, Hetfield stepped in the path of a chemical flame set to shoot from the stage. The heat was so intense that it melted his guitar strings. Hetfield received second and third degree burns...and then got right back to rocking 17 days later.

      Who He Is Now: While their music started to lose some of its edge in the mid-90's, it seemed like our vision of Hetfield as badass would never go anywhere. Enter the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster. While holed up to record their St. Anger album, someone within the Metallica camp decided it would be a good idea to bring in a Cosby sweater wearing "therapist" to help the band get in touch with the feelings they have for each other. That Hetfield stood by and let this happen without eating that dude or something is bad enough. But to make matters worse, Het' at one point leaves to go to rehab and comes back, like, eight years later as an Alcoholics Anonymous mantra spouting softy who can only record during banker's hours and thinks getting screamed at by Lars Ulrich isn't reason enough to unleash a savage beating.

      Least Badass Moment: How far away from his Satan-baiting lyric writing days has James Hetfield come? Check this line from the St. Anger album..."I don't want my anger to be me." Well, guess what James, we do.

      Sinead O'Connor

      Who She Was: Sinead O'Connor? A badass? You bet, once upon a time anyway. There was a time when Sinead couldn't go to the store for cigarettes without coming home with a brand new controversy to be embroiled in. Take her performance at the Garden State Arts Center in 1990. Upon learning that the venue had a policy of playing the "Star Spangled Banner" prior to all performances, O'Connor advised she would not go on if the anthem was played. The arena eventually gave in, but later banned her for life. When explaining the incident later, O'Connor stated that going on after the playing of a nation anthem of a country that imposes censorship on artists would be "hypocritical and racist." Huh? How that qualifies as racist, I'm not sure. But to her credit, she probably had no idea either. Sinead O'Connor just didn't give a damn.

      Most Badass Moment: On an episode of Saturday Night Live, O'Connor performed an a capella version of "War" by Bob Marley. At the end of the performance, she held up a picture of the Pope John Paul II, ripped it into pieces, said "fight the real enemy" and threw the pieces at the camera. Naturally, most everyone watching at the time went ape shit.

      Who She Is Now: A Catholic priest! Well, sort of. She was actually ordained by a splinter group called the Independent Catholic group. But still, coming from a woman whose career was pretty much defined by opposing the Catholic church, it seems like a bit of a sell-out. And by "a bit" I mean "a huge friggin' sell out." But who am I to judge? That's her job now.

      Least Badass Moment: Um, did I mention she was is now an ordained priest?

      Ozzy Osbourne

      Who He Was Then: He bit the head off a bat. He bit the head off a live dove in a meeting with record executives. He pissed on the Alamo while wearing a dress. He snorted a line of ants. He was trampled by a pack of rabid elephants and lived to tell the tale. Alright, I totally made that last one up, but anyone who knows anything about music knows that there was a time when Ozzy Osbourne was the scariest thing on two legs.

      When I was a kid I once got caught watching an Ozzy Osbourne video on MTV (back when they played those) and was grounded for two weeks. Why? Because it was Ozzy Osbourne, and listening to him was a surefire path to Satan worship. In the most surefire proof that badassedness was afoot, Ozzy was sued not once, but twice, by families who claimed his song directly led to suicides. Both cases were eventually overturned. Ozzy was probably too high to notice.

      Most Badass Moment: After releasing a pair of doves into the air at a meeting with record execs, Ozzy was unimpressed with their reaction. To remedy the situation, he grabbed one of the doves, bit its head off and spit the head onto the floor. People noticed.

      Who He Is Now: A damn clown, that's what he is now. Thanks to his late career reinvention as a reality television pioneer on MTV's The Osbournes, we now know more than we ever would have hoped about "The Prince of Darkness." Before the show, most of us probably imagined that Ozzy lived in some sort of lair built into the side of a dark, remote mountain. But as it turned out, he lives in a mansion in California overrun with cats and the type of dogs that chicks carry around in purses. Granted, The Osbournes introduced Ozzy to a whole new legion of fans. Unfortunately, those fans didn't fall in love with "Bark At the Moon," they fell in love with Ozzy Osbourne: drunken, word-slurring buffoon.

      Least Badass Moment: As if the reality show wasn't sad enough, Ozzy and his brood are set to star in a "variety type show" that will feature a mix of stunts, competition and performances. The working title is "The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous, but execs are reportedly floating the idea of calling it The Osbournes' Super-Terrific Happy Hour. I only wish I was lying.

Original here

4chan hacker holds rapper Soulja Boy's MySpace account ransom

A miscreant from the sordid 4chan message-board community sent rapper and social media whiz-kid Soulja Boy a text message the other day, telling him to fork over $2,500 if he wanted control over his MySpace account back. "I sent him a text message back," says Soulja Boy in a clip below, " I said fuck you, bitch. Do what you do. This motherfucker got to be fucked up." Then Soulja Boy contacted MySpace and got his account back. Now he's offering fans $10,000 for the name of the hacker. Valleywag commenter Rex Sorgatz suggests a security tip for the young man: "Perhaps his password shouldn't have been SupermanDatHo."

Facebook The Movie. The Shitty, Shitty Movie.

POSTED BY Max Powers


It always amazes me how excited people get about social networking sites, and then at some point just decide that they are totally lame. Like do you kids remember Friendster? Back in 2002 I was all OVER that shit. Then Myspace came along and had more hot young girls. And at some point, people just all abandoned that ship and headed to facebook.

Here’s what the Facebook page that Sorkin set up says about the movie he is making. Yes, he set up a page. And he's making a movie about Facebook. And man is he douche-tasctic.

Some of you might be familiar with some things I've written. I'm the author of two Broadway plays--A Few Good Men and The Farnsworth Invention, five feature films--A Few Good Men, The American President, Malice, Charlie Wilson's War and The Trial of the Chicago 7 which is in pre-production, and three television series--Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the first four seasons of The West Wing.

Wow. Way to win the kids over. Next time just breakdance for us.

The problem is that now that everyone knows about it, people like your mother set up a profile. And you can't really stalk hot young girls because the privacy settings are totally made for Amish people and east coast girls schools. So now you just use it like a big digital rolodex that lives on the internet so you can email people you haven’t talked to in three years and see if you can crash on their friends floor in London. The real problem with the movie is that by the time it is done, Facebook will also be.

Check out the newsfeed on /film's profile for more status updates.

Original here

Dita von Teese is the new face (and body) of Wonderbra

Dita Von Teese modelling her new range of Wonderbra by Dita Von Teese range

Dita Von Teese models her new range of Wonderbra by Dita Von Teese

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The wellspring, and sole star, of the current vogue for ‘burlesque’ style shows Dita von Teese has finally completed her transition from fringe entertainer to high street icon by securing the coveted position of the ’face’ (and body) of the Wonderbra brand. The model will launch her own signature range under the Wonderbra umbrella at the end of next month.

The performer and model, who first came to widespread public attention as the partner of shock rocker Marilyn Manson, was born Heather Sweet in Michigan, USA, in 1972.

It was, reputedly, her disappointment at the contrast between the modest design of her first bra and the elaborate lingerie she had espied in her father’s girlie magazines that provided the spur to almost single-handedly revive the 1940s glamour of burlesque and has led to her performing in front of celebrity-studded audiences in Britain and the US.

The new range fronted by Von Teese features some novel design features, like man-friendly quick-release clasps making the bras easier to remove than traditional models.

The Wonderbra brand dates back to before the Second World War but it was really the early 1990s campaign spearheaded by model Eva Herzigová that ensured it its current prominence as the best known name in lingerie.

Original here

The 5 Lamest Disasters in Disaster Movie History

By Steve Clark

Hollywood loves a good disaster and, let's face it, the end of the world looks cool as hell on screen. If you show us a bunch of exploding monuments, we'll buy a ticket.

But apparently Hollywood ran out of the really good disasters a long time ago, because sometimes they end up using disasters that appear to be just barely more than mild inconveniences. Such as:

#5.
Volcano

The Disaster:

When the La Brea Tar Pits inexplicably turn into a goddamn volcano, it's up to a plucky geologist (Anne Heche) and a Dedicated Emergency Management director who can't fry up scrambled eggs without injuring himself (Tommy Lee Jones) to save Los Angeles from the river of lava now flowing down Wilshire Boulevard.

Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:

After a character points out early in the film that some volcanoes can erupt with the force of a nuclear blast, we find out that, wait, no, the one under LA is really small. It barely erupts at all, really, just oozes lava down the street.

Here's the interesting thing about lava: It's not very fast. Wait, did we say interesting? We meant boring.


"Hurry, the lava's gaining on us, we only have three minutes. And six hours. And eleven days."

Sure, on a particularly steep slope, a lava flow might get up past 6 miles per hour but on more gentle inclines it tends to top off at about 1/2 a mile per hour, only slightly faster than a turtle can walk. So of course the movie has tons of scenes on steep inclines, so the lava can come rushing down on the characters, right?

Not at all! They even have a scene where a character sets a basketball on the street to figure out which way the ground is sloping, thus establishing firmly that Wilshire Blvd is the safest place on earth to be in the event of a volcano.

That leaves the screenwriters with the uncomfortable task of trying to find ways to make this easygoing safety hazard more exciting. So, in one scene, a palm tree catches fire and falls over, conveniently trapping the heroes between an overturned bus and the creeping tide of molten death. Later, a handful of people on a subway train have to be rescued because not one of them is smart enough to figure out how to use the door on a subway car without outside help.

Finally, the lava breaks several laws of physics to race across town via an underground tunnel and spring out of the middle of the road near Cedar Sinai Hospital, but then it just starts crawling along exactly the way it did on the other side of town.

How They Solve the "Problem":

How do you re-route a lava flow and send it harmlessly into the ocean? Simple: You blow up a huge fucking building! Seriously, to save the city from a threat that can be easily out-walked, they topple a large building, killing two people in the process. If they ever make a sequel, they should save a city from a glacier by burning down an orphanage.


"We'll build a lava blockade using every available fire truck."

Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":

An old lady walks away from the lava that's engulfing her house, but she left her tiny little dog inside! The dog, realizing that he's in no danger whatsoever, runs over to the lava and barks at it.

Then, he scampers out the doggy door to tell all his little doggy friends that lava is a huge pussy.

#4.
Twister

The Disaster:

When a large stormfront threatens to let loose a number of tornadoes in an area commonly known as the "Tornado Belt," it's up to a plucky Storm Chaser (Hellen Hunt) and a guy with the regrettable nickname "The Extreme" (Bill Paxton) to put a bunch of little plastic balls into one of the tornadoes for science.

Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:

We're certainly not going to argue that tornadoes aren't a destructive force of nature. That would be retarded. However, it's important to keep in mind that the average tornado-related event doesn't actually last very long, certainly not long enough to base an entire movie around.

The solution, obviously, was to make a movie about people who are dumb enough to run right up to one tornado after another and try to stick their balls in it.

But, even if you're willing to buy into the idea that the heroes' mission is worth all this ridiculous weather chasing, and some people obviously do, you're still left with the fact that these particular tornadoes are pretty much wimps. Sure, they're ready to tear a house apart or throw around the occasional cow, but time and time again the heroes drive right up to the funnel clouds, as if you actually have to jam your head inside one for it to hurt you.

For the big finale, our protagonists actually pass through into the eye of an F-5 tornado (read: a seriously fucking dangerous tornado) and emerge completely unharmed because they hung on really tight.


"This was such a stupid idea."

Yes, unharmed by the tornado that's full of debris flying around at speeds that can drive a piece of straw through a tree trunk.

How They Solve the "Problem":

Keep in mind that the situation that needs solving isn't the actual tornadoes themselves but rather the problem of getting a bunch of little plastic balls into one of these tornadoes. So, it makes sense that the day would be saved by Pepsi Cola.

See, the balls need to stay up in the air, so the heroes make tiny little propellers out of Pepsi cans. We can only imagine the inevitable, blood-drenched terror when these things finally spin their way down toward some poor farmer and his helpless family.

Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":

In an early scene, the main characters are stuck in a giant ditch with a tornado bearing down on them, and they don't even have time to turn on the machine with all those balls in it! So, they hide under a small wooden bridge. We'll go ahead and assume that it's perfectly normal for somebody to build a bridge over a ditch.

Anyway, the tornado steals their truck, dismantles most of the little bridge, and then just disappears with its tail between its legs, apparently frightened away by Helen Hunt.

#3.
Daylight

The Disaster:

When a gang of astoundingly dimwitted jewel thieves crash their car into a convoy of trucks loaded down with toxic waste and the resulting explosion blocks off a section of the Hudson Tunnel, it's up to a plucky playwright (Amy Brenneman) and a cab driver who used to be the Emergency Medical Services Chief (Sylvester Stallone) to drag the few remaining survivors to safety.

Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:

The explosion must have been caused by some revolutionary new kind of clean-burning toxic waste, because nobody has any trouble breathing in that tunnel. Then again, most of these characters come into direct contact with the flames from that explosion, and none of them appear to have any burns on them, so this might actually be some kind of undercover superhero movie.

Since the smoke doesn't seem to have any effect and even fire can't hurt these people, screenwriter Leslie Bohem tries to come up with a new excuse for excitement every few minutes. At first, it seems like rising water levels will add a sense of danger to the proceedings, but the water is so slow to rise that it acts more as a vague annoyance than an actual crisis.

Then, Stallone takes a shot at livening things up by blowing up a big-ass gas tanker, ostensibly trying to slow down the water even more somehow. It almost seems dangerous because Stallone runs into some unexplained technical difficulties and he can't get quite as far from the explosion as he'd like to, but then he just jumps out of the way (a technique often referred to as a "Stallone" ).

As near as we can tell, his efforts have no noticeable effect on the rising water.

In the rare instances when danger does leap out and grab somebody by the ass, it tends to seem more confusing than anything. At one point a guy apparently falls through the road just because he walked on it and it was wet (how the hell does this only happen once?) and then an old lady sits down and just sort of dies, presumably from boredom.

How They Solve the "Problem":

It all comes down to the brave rescue efforts of a friendly parade of rats.

The rats, who apparently weren't in any particular hurry to leave the ever-so-slowly-crumbling tunnel, eventually swim over to our protagonists and kindly show them the way out, which is something we think they stole from a cartoon.

Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":

As the survivors make their way to safety, having successfully climbed a rickety staircase, they realize that the dog needs help getting up the steps! Bravely, Stallone risks his life to pull a fucking dog up a flight of steps!

And the dog makes it! Stallone, on the other hand, falls back into the water and has to find his own damn way out of the tunnel. We think the dog planned that.

#2.
Firestorm

The Disaster:

When a retardedly convoluted prison break results in one giant forest fire with four escaped convicts wandering around in the middle of it, it's up to a plucky ornithologist (Suzy Amis) and some guy who parachutes into forest fires for a living (Howie Long) to stop both the fire and the convicts.

Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:

As it turns out, those characters we just mentioned are the only people anywhere near this fire. That's a grand total of six people endangered by this disaster, and four of those are vicious criminals.


And one of them's Howie Long.

As it turns out, there are two kinds of forest fire: The kind that moves really fast and the kind that moves really slow. Guess which this movie is about?

Characters frequently find themselves surrounded by flames only to wander away unharmed. A couple of scenes later, they'll find themselves in some perfectly safe part of the forest untouched by the flames, having easily out-walked the disaster (on rough terrain, no less).

In fact, firefighter Howie Long (a former football player in what he thought would be his star-making debut) doesn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the fire at all, so unworried about the flames creeping into an even more unpopulated areas of the forest that he spends his time worrying about the escaped convicts instead. Hell, if this were any kind of real fire, it would take care of the convicts for them.

How They Solve the "Problem":

It took us a while to figure out why, but Howie decides to set another forest fire himself. He's literally fighting fire with fire. You'd think the bigger fire would win, leaving yourself with a bigger problem than you started with.

But, at the end of the movie, the two huge fires finally meet up and they knock each other the fuck out. How the hell does that work? Why don't the two fires form one huge fire and destroy everything? Is the fire Howie started a good fire, loyal to its creator?


Ta Da!

Well, here we must admit the movie had science on its side. Yes, firefighters really do this, it's called a backfire and it's supposed to steal oxygen away from the first forest fire.

The lesson: Action movies are always right.

Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":

The escaped convicts (masquerading as firemen) and the ornithologist are trying to make their way around a particularly large fire on their way out of the forest. From above, Howie Long notices that they're wandering directly into the path of the very slowly moving fire! They could be in danger within as little as a half an hour! So, he parachutes down to save them, or at least to advise them to walk in a different direction.

#1.
The Day of the Triffids

The Disaster:

When hordes of ambulatory vegetables roam the European countryside in search of delicious human flesh, it's up to a plucky little girl (Janina Faye) and an American sailor (Howard Keel) to fend for themselves and let everybody else go to hell for all they care.

Why They Should Calm The Hell Down:

This is a triffid.

Now, while it certainly is impressive for a plant to learn how to walk around even at a snail's pace, and flinging venom into people's faces is admittedly a fairly cool way to kill somebody, these two abilities alone don't make for a particularly awesome monster. A relatively awesome plant, maybe, if you're grading on a curve, but kind of a lame monster.

Obviously, if you're in any danger of being killed by something that can barely move and needs to get within arm's reach to hurt you, you're either blind or paralyzed. Sci-fi writer John Wyndham, author of the original Day of the Triffids novel, evidently decided that mysteriously paralyzing everybody on the planet would make for a decidedly boring story. So, he wrote up a convoluted excuse for everybody to wind up blind, to give the triffids some kind of a fair chance.

So, some kind of bizarre meteor shower puts on a nice little light show, and anyone who looks at the lights in the sky ends up permanently blind by the following morning.

With about 99% of the world's population completely helpless (Hey, it was a really pretty light show, alright?), the triffids seize their chance to become something other than laugh-out-loud ridiculous.

For the main characters (who still have their sight) the film tries desperately to come up with excuses for why they should feel threatened by the hobbling plants. Therefore every once in a while the heroes have to stop and let the triffids surround them for some reason (i.e. an old man conveniently twists his ankle on absolutely nothing, and has to be carried).

But even then, it's kind of hard to take them seriously as a threat when hundreds of the monsters calmly stand around and let you set them on fire:

Or, when they can't even move fast enough to get out of the way when a survivor accidentally runs one over in his truck, pathetically dragging it along under his bumper:

How They Solve the "Problem":

In a desperate last-ditch effort to save themselves, the heroes decide to try spraying the triffids with salt water. The triffids, surprisingly enough, oblige their hosts by dissolving into a disgusting green sludge.

Yes, not only did screenwriter Bernard Gordon apparently think that the triffids would be too overwhelming of a threat if they didn't have some retarded vulnerability, but it also never occurred to him that his miraculous seawater cure isn't even as effective as just the setting the goddamn things on fire.

Most Laughable Brush With "Danger":

The little girl wanders away from her seafaring guardian to look for rocks or something, and she walks too close to a triffid!

Oh, no! She runs back to the car and gets in, but the triffid reaches the car only a minute or two later! Of course, the triffid's venom spraying attack is no match for a car window, so our heroes just drive away.

We kind of feel sorry for the triffids, really.

If you liked that, check out Steve's look at The 6 Worst Movies Hollywood Almost Made or for some examples of disasters that might spill off of the screen check out 5 Famous Sci-Fi Weapons That They're Actually Building.

Original here

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Superman's story: Did a fatal robbery forge the Man of Steel?


On the night of June 2, 1932, the world's first superhero was born — not on the mythical planet of Krypton but from a little-known tragedy on the streets of Cleveland.

It was Thursday night, about 8:10 p.m., and Mitchell Siegel, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, was in his secondhand clothing store on the near East Side. According to a police report, three men entered. One asked to see a suit of clothes and walked out without paying for it. In the commotion of the robbery, Siegel, 60, fell to the ground and died.

The police report mentions a gunshot being heard. But the coroner, the police and Siegel's wife said Siegel died of a heart attack. No one was ever arrested.

What happened next has exploded some of the longest-held beliefs about the origins of Superman and the two teenage boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who invented America's best-known comic-book hero.

Past accounts suggest Siegel and Shuster, both 17, awkward and unpopular in high school, invented the meek Clark Kent and his powerful alter-ego, Superman, to attract girls and rise above their humble Cleveland beginnings.

But now it appears that the origin might have been more profound — that it was the death of Jerry Siegel's father that pushed the devastated teen to come up with the idea of a "Superman" to right all wrongs.

"In 50 years of interviews, Jerry Siegel never once mentioned that his father died in a robbery," says Brad Meltzer, a best-selling author whose novel, The Book of Lies, due Sept. 2, links the Siegel murder to a biblical conspiracy plot.

"But think about it," Meltzer says. "Your father dies in a robbery, and you invent a bulletproof man who becomes the world's greatest hero. I'm sorry, but there's a story there."

The first 'Superman'

The evidence for such a psychological underpinning is strong.

It was just a year after Mitchell Siegel's death, 1933, that writer Siegel and artist Shuster came up with "The Superman," a grim, flying avenger they tried to sell to newspaper syndicates and publishers for five years. In the oldest surviving artwork, this early Superman, whom they call "the most astounding fiction character of all time," flies to the rescue of a man who is being held up by a masked robber.

Was it Jerry's alter-ego flying to rescue his helpless father?

"America did not get Superman from our greatest legends, but because a boy lost his father," Meltzer says. "Superman came not out of our strength but out of our vulnerability."

The more Meltzer looked, the more intriguing things became. A letter published in The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on June 3, 1932, the day after the robbery, denounces the need for vigilantes in the harsh days of the Depression. The letter is signed by an A.L. Luther.

"Is that where (Superman foe) Lex Luthor came from?" Meltzer says. "I almost had a heart attack right there. I thought, 'You have to be kidding me!' "

In search of answers

Meltzer was not the only one looking. Comic-book historian Gerard Jones first disclosed the fact of the robbery in 2004 for his book, Men of Tomorrow, after interviews with Siegel's cousins.

"It had to have an effect," Jones says. "Superman's invulnerability to bullets, loss of family, destruction of his homeland — all seem to overlap with Jerry's personal experience. There's a connection there: the loss of a dad as a source for Superman."

Although they never went public, the father's side of the family was told for decades that the elder Siegel had been shot in the robbery. That's the dramatic angle Meltzer takes in his conspiracy novel. Siegel was shot twice in the chest at his store, he writes, and "a puddle of blood seeped toward the door."

In an afterword to his work of fiction, Meltzer concedes that the facts remain murky. In an interview, Meltzer said that some in the family were told "since they were little kids" that Siegel died by gunfire. Others were told he had a heart attack. "It was probably a heart attack," Meltzer said.

And yet Meltzer is not ready to embrace either answer as final.

More definitive is Marc Tyler Nobleman, author with artist Ross MacDonald of this year's illustrated book Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, who concludes that Mitchell Siegel died of a heart attack during the robbery. The coroner, he notes, reported "no wounds" on Siegel's body, and the gunshot might not have been related to the robbery.

"I spent a long time going after this," Nobleman says. "I believe I have the first accurate account. Jerry's father wasn't shot and robbed. He had a heart attack during a robbery."

A fortune sold for $130

The rest of the saga of Siegel and Shuster is better known, but no less tragic. It wasn't until 1938 that the familiar red-and-blue-garbed Superman appeared on the cover of Action Comics No. 1. The creators got a check for $130. In return, DC Comics acquired rights to the character "forever."

Siegel and Shuster bristled as Superman grew in popularity — on radio, in wartime cartoons and serials in the 1940s. They went to court several times, winning settlements but never rights to the character. By the 1970s, Siegel had been working as a mail clerk for $7,000 a year, and Shuster was almost blind.

"A shameful legacy," says Blake Bell, author of The World of Steve Ditko, a biography of the co-creator of Spider-Man. Comic-book creators "had no pensions, no contracts, no health benefits, and companies didn't even pay for the artists' supplies. When these artists tried to negotiate greater rights for themselves, they were either collectively cast out or made false promises."

After hearing that Warner Bros. had paid $3 million for the rights to make Superman the Movie in 1975, Siegel and Shuster tried again to reap some benefits. This time, though, they had help from the artistic community and from fans who knew their work.

In a landmark settlement, DC Comics agreed to pay the two men $20,000 a year for life. More important, friends say, DC agreed to add "Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster" on all printed and filmed material in the future.

"Having their names listed as Superman's creators was the biggest victory of all," says Steve Younis, editor of SupermanHomepage.com. "It's worth more than any kind of monetary reimbursement."

The man who helped negotiate the Siegel and Shuster deal was artist Jerry Robinson, who co-created The Joker in 1939 but who received little recognition for decades. (He's now a creative consultant for DC Comics in the wake of The Dark Knight film.)

Robinson says he threw a party in his Manhattan apartment when the Siegel and Shuster settlement was announced.

"Kurt Vonnegut, Jules Pfeiffer, Will Eisner, Eli Wallach and his wife were there," Robinson, 86, says. "Walter Cronkite came on, and they showed Superman flying, and he described what had happened. At the end, he said, 'Another triumph for truth, justice and the American way.'

"We opened Champagne. Jerry and Joe were there, and it was a very emotional moment. There wasn't a dry eye in the place."

The struggle goes on

Michael Uslan, executive producer of the six Batman movies since 1989, including The Dark Knight, says there has been a "sea change" in how corporations view comic books and their creators. "Here you have people in their 80s and 90s seeing their comic-book work being taken seriously," Uslan says. "They are deriving economic benefits now either directly or through consultancies."

Shuster died in 1992 and Siegel in 1996, but their legal battles have been never-ending. In March, a court ruled that Siegel's heirs (wife Joanne and daughter Laura) were entitled to parts of the billion-dollar Superman copyright. Because of the ongoing litigation, neither the families nor DC Comics would comment, not even about Mitchell Siegel's death 76 years ago or its implications.

But in an e-mailed response, the Siegel family did say, "It is gratifying to know people want to know about Jerry Siegel, and that he is getting recognition for his creativity."

Original here

Muppet Show to return to TV after 27 years

By Chris Irvine

Muppet Show to return to TV after 27 years
The Muppet Show, which ran from 1976 to 1981, won an Emmy in 1978 for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series Photo: REUTERS

The Jim Henson-created characters may be on their way back thanks to a new Disney Film.

In the movie, written by Forgetting Sarah Marshall star and writer Jason Segel, the Muppets reunite to save their studio with one last variety show.

Should the film go well, it opens up the possibility of a television programme, also written by 28-year-old Segel.

A source said: "Jason is a massive Muppets fan and is seen as the man to finally bring The Muppet Show back to TV.

"It will obviously have all its old fans but Jason's comedy is hugely popular with youngsters so it will open it up to a whole new audience."

The source added: "If the movie script is popular Jason will write the TV series too. He is already coming up with ideas for it."

Although there have been a number of spin-offs, including Muppets Tonight in 1996, The Muppet Show originally ran from 1976 to 1981, and made famous characters such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo - the show won an Emmy in 1978 for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series.

In the original series, Kermit, arguably the world's most famous frog, was the show's stage manager, attempting to keep order amidst the chaos, while being pursued by Miss Piggy.

The Muppet characters went on to star in a number of movies including The Muppets Take Manhatten, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppets from Space.

Original here

RIAA, MPAA Converging on Political Conventions

By David Kravets

Mpaaa When the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America aren't suing individuals and websites for copyright infringement, they're lobbying.

The two groups are making the rounds in Denver at the Democratic National Convention, where they're likely pushing proposed legislation that would create a cabinet-level copyright czar. Officials from the RIAA and MPAA plan on hitting the Republican convention next week in Minnesota, where they would likely be pushing proposed legislation that would create a copyright czar.

In the age of political correctness, the groups prefer not to use the derogatory term -- "lobbying."

Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, said RIAA president Cary Sherman and others from the recording industry are in Denver "to be relevant to the political process. We'll be in Minnesota next week."

Riaapic_2 Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA, was equally cryptic. Dan Glickman, the association's chairman and former congressman, is there "reconnecting with old friends," she said.

"Obviously," Martinez added, "he's there as a representative of the motion picture industry."

The RIAA, MPAA and others are hosting a fundraiser party at the convention on Wednesday for the One Campaign to fight world poverty.

Here's a news tip: As part of the love fest where change is being promised, the Democrats will nominate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as the party's presidential candidate. You read it here first.

Original here



Led Zeppelin back in the studio

By Sarah Knapton

Robert Plant performing in front of an estimated 8,000 people audience in Bucharest
Robert Plant performing in front of an estimated 8,000 people audience in Bucharest Photo: EPA

Drummer Bonham told a radio station in Detroit that the new material may be recorded but added there was "lots of politics" to sort out first.

The three band members have been meeting to work on new ideas since Led Zeppelin's one-off reunion show last December.

But lead singer Robert Plant has not been involved in any of the sessions, Bonham told the radio station.

He said: "At the moment, all I know is I have the great pleasure to go and jam with the two guys and start work on some material.

"When I get there [in the studio] I never ask any questions. If I get a phone call to go and play, I enjoy every moment of it.

"Whatever it ends up as, to ever get a chance to jam with two people like that, it is a phenomenal thing for me. It's my life. It's what I've dreamed about doing."

He added: "Lots of politics [would need to] get ironed out [before an album could be made]."

Led Zeppelin played their first concert in 19 years, in front of nearly 20,000 fans, at London's 02 arena in December.

Their two-hour set opened with Good Times Bad Times - the first track of their debut album.

Original band members Page, Plant and Jones were joined on stage by Jason Bonham - the son of their late drummer John.

Page recently performed Whole Lotta Love at the London Olympic handover ceremony in Beijing. The song was sung by X Factor winner Leona Lewis.

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