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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bringing Down the Volume of Loud Commercials

Ever get sick of those commercials that seem to be a lot louder than the show you're watching?

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) sympathizes with you.

The senator yesterday introduced legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission to bar commercials from being broadcast at louder volumes than the program material they accompany. It's called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act.

"Excessively loud television commercials are annoying and drive families away from quality programming," Wicker said in a news release. "This bill is a common sense approach to a problem that plagues individuals across the nation and will create a more enjoyable television experience. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this legislation a reality."

The bill has companion legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA).

Should this issue be a top priority for Congress and the FCC?

Pasture Of Muppets: Inside the Metallica Reviews Scandal


Agents of Metallica managed another internet debacle last week, caused this time by preposterous demands that journalists who attended a listening party for the upcoming Metallica album pull their subsequent reviews. Only one publication refused: The Quietus.

I spoke with The Quietus editor John Doran (pictured above to the left, with Slayer guitarist Kerry King on the right) to get the lowdown on what, exactly, happened.

The short version: While everything else about metal seems to be evolving, certain US-based heavy metal publicists didn't get the memo. And Metallica was as upset about the early reviews debacle as anyone else. (The band's website now includes links to the once-offending reviews.)

Doran explained the situation to Listening Post via cellphone from London. First, I asked him if anything like this had ever happened to him before.

"I wouldn't want to refer to it specifically as an American phenomenon, but I definitely find that when I'm dealing with indie bands or rock bands in the UK (versus) dealing with -– not always American bands, but bands that are bigger in America than they are over here, like Judas Priest or Metallica -– I find that there seems to be an extra level of machismo in some of the PR agencies that I basically find tedious."

"It doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help the band, and it certainly doesn't help the journalists. Once I was supposed to go over to America and interview Judas Priest for Metal Hammer (Magazine), and because of a bomb scare, my plane got held up and I couldn't make it out to the states in time. I was supposed to go to a hotel, go into the room next to Judas Priest and interview Rob Halford on the phone.

"I just said, 'Well look, my plane's been grounded because of a bomb scare, can I just give (the interview) on the phone?'

"The woman who looks after Judas Priest went insane and demanded that Metal Hammer sack me. To me, I thought it was like a penis-measuring competition. There was no real reason for me to go to America (for a phone interview in a hotel room adjacent to Halford's).

"I think it's really sad, because at the grassroots level, as indie and hip hop devolve, metal evolves. If you want to see the most open-minded, most integrated, most accepting audiences in the world, go to a metal gig -- especially in the UK. It's a lot more diverse and open-minded than an indie crowd. But sometimes I don't think some of the PR people are up to speed on this, and they're still acting a bit like (manager) Peter Grant from Led Zeppelin or whatever. There's just too much machismo, do you know what I mean?"

I did. Then I asked who was at fault in this whole the early review scandal. Basically, which brainiac invited journalists to hear the upcoming Metallica album and was shocked when they wrote about it?

"It was not the English PR people for Metallica who caused this clusterfuck. Metallica's management -- I was really genuinely surprised. I was expecting to have some kind of fucking guy who does nothing but eat raw beef fuck me up and tear me a new asshole. But they had (Metallica's manager) Cliff Bernstein call me up, and he was, like, a gentleman, you know, a really nice guy."

Apparently, Metallica didn't know much about the listening sessions or subsequent requests that the resulting reviews be deleted.

"Metallica said 'Look, we've been away on tour, and we're a bit annoyed that this thing has gone on, because it makes us look bad.' And as soon as they said that, I could see that the tide of e-mails we were getting, some started going in Metallica's favor."

That's when it occurred to Doran that it might be a good idea for Metallica to offer him an interview in addition to more mainstream metal magazines, so that "people realize you're not totally afraid of the internet anymore."

I asked Doran whose fault the whole thing was, if not the band's. Aren’t they responsible for the actions of their representatives?

"It seems like the guy from Q Prime, he came over to the UK, and he just took too much for granted. It seems totally plausible to me that these listening sessions were just to see who was going to give them proper features, who was going to run a news feature… But unfortunately, the guy from Q Prime who came to the UK just didn't say at any point, 'you're not allowed to write about this.'"

Doran added that when Metallica's people called to tell him to pull his early review of the album, he refused because he essentially had nothing to lose.

"Speaking as someone who runs a blog site in the UK, Metal Hammer, Kerrang and Rock Sound have got a really, really big vested interest in taking those reviews down immediately. I didn't, because there was no way that Metallica were going to give me an interview. So when I was being told, 'Oh, you've got to take the review down,' I was like 'Show me an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and I'll take it down.'

"This is the same PR company that look after Fightstar -- like I could give a fuck. I was like, 'You're not going to give me access to Metallica and I don't like any of the other bands you look after, so I don't really care (inaudible), to be honest.' And they started phoning all these writers who'd been there, and trying to scope out who the writer was (who refused to take down the review)."

Ultimately, Doran decided to pull the review because his writers were in danger of losing access to Metallica in their work for other publications:

"As soon as my writers are in the firing line, then immediately, I've got to look after the best interests of my writers, you know. I'm definitely not going to take it down because the band asked me to. But I think, genuinely think (that Metallica has come out looking) alright, definitely a lot better than they did after the whole Napster debacle."

Why the hell are you excited for Transformers 2?

I visit Digg a lot, as any self-respecting Internet junkie should. I also thought the first Transformers movie was pretty horrendous, as most self-respecting nerds of the 80's should. I find myself constantly being surprised, then, that nearly every piece of information on the Transformers sequel, no matter how small or irrelevant, always ends becoming popular on the site.

New set pics? Dugg.

Speculation about the title? Dugg.

Rainn Wilson will be in it? Dugg.

I'm not trying to pick on Digg, of course -- if anything, Digg does a great job for acting as the general will of the Internet-people -- but in the pervasive and inconceivable lust for a sequel that hasn't come out yet, to a film which sucked really hard.

I mean, yeah, the fights were kind of interesting (if really difficult to make out given Bay's shakycam and the too-detailed CGI), but Jesus -- how could any self-respecting Transformers fan be happy with a plot where Optimus Prime plays second banana to Shia fucking LeBouf? Hell, third banana, if you count Bumblebee? Where Megatron doesn't show up until the very end, and isn't even killed by Optimus? Where we spend the majority of two and a half hours -- two and a half hours -- hanging out with boring-ass human characters when all we really want to see is Optimus Prime kicking the crap out of Starscream?

Both as a fan of the original series and as an appreciator of decent films, I literally couldn't find more than one or two things I actually liked about Transformers. I know I cannot be alone in this.

Why, then, is there such hubbub about every irrelevant piece of news on Transformers 2? Do we honestly believe that the presence of Rainn Wilson will somehow make up for Anthony Anderson's -- I repeat, Anthony Anderson's -- supporting role in the first one? Will some neat set pics or a potential Asian locale make up for the fact that Michael Bay will still be directing it, which means the characters will still be flat and boring and the action clumsily shot? How can we possibly bring ourselves to be excited about a film which, given everything we know, will probably be a pile of total shit?

With the exception of superhero movies, we all know that sequels always suck more than their predecessors. It's a fact, unless we're talking about Spider-Man or James Cameron is involved or something. It is an equally well-known fact that Michael Bay cannot make good movies. When you combine these two terms, "Michael Bay" and "sequel," should that not set off some sort of "this movie will be shit" alarm in all our nerdy, film-loving heads?

I mean, this is usually the part where, in order to cover my ass, I say something like: "Look, if Transformers 2 ends up being a good movie, I'll happily apologize and eat my words." But I literally cannot conceive of any possible scenario in which the sequel will be anywhere near what we might call a decent film. The first flick made enough money that Bay is probably convinced that he doesn't need to change anything about the way he makes films. People will pay to see robots fight other robots, even if they have to sit through two hours of people who aren't robots engaging in completely boring interpersonal conflict.

I have no personal solution to this problem, outside of just praying that people eventually stop caring about a movie that will eventually suck in roughly the same way battered women still consider their abusive husbands "nice guys," but that's obviously impractical. Being the pretentious, self-centered blogger that I am, I can only hope -- hope that Transformers 2 is either the greatest film ever made and that I be proven wrong, or that it's so bad that no one ever dare utter the word "Transformers" again without shuddering from the deepest, darkest parts of their robot-loving hearts.

Transformers 2 will suck.

Stop caring about it.

Original here

Seven Things We Want From The Dark Tower Movies

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

With that one perfect opening line, Stephen King started the international obsession known as The Dark Tower. King not only launched two legendary characters into the literary stratosphere, but he also ushered readers into a massive fantasy world that would become as fully-realized and complete as anything modern literature has produced since Tolkien sketched the borders of Middle Earth. The twelve words that started the phenomenon first ran in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in October of 1978. It would take three years for the other four parts of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger to appear in the same magazine. In actuality, it took twelve years total to finish the novel that first came to King while he was a college student back in 1970. There was never anything "speedy" about The Dark Tower. The Gunslinger was published in a limited run in 1982, but only really took off when Plume released a trade paperback version in 1988 with gorgeous illustrations by Michael Whelan. The back of that edition said it all, expressing not just the complete story within, but the promise of what would come - "Complete in itself, The Gunslinger is the first novel in an epic series, The Dark Tower, that promises to be Stephen King's crowning achievement."

Using Robert Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", The Lord of the Rings, and the Sergio Leone made Clint Eastwood movies as his foundation, King would go on to write six more novels in The Dark Tower series, undeniably his most impressive achievement. We can argue until we're red about whether all seven books fulfilled their promise or whether they stand up next to King's best non-Tower works, but the very existence of these novels is a remarkable accomplishment. The second book, The Drawing of the Three, was first published in 1987, followed by 1991's The Waste Lands and 1997's Wizard and Glass. Then the world of The Dark Tower went silent for a long time. Many of us thought that it would never be revisited, much less completed. But, largely inspired by the car accident that nearly killed him, King shocked us all and rushed through the final three books in just two years. He released Wolves of the Calla in 2003 and both Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower in 2004. Suddenly, Roland's journey was finally at its end. (To be fair, this is a world that will clearly never end, as it's already found new life in graphic novel form. But King's seven-book series was over.)

Even before it was over, the talk of adapting the franchise into a movie or mini-series had started, but it would take another three years to really go somewhere. And it was King's love for a hit TV show that finally made it happen. In February of 2007, IGN broke the news that Lost's J.J. Abrams and King had worked out a deal to get the gunslinger after the man in black on screen, big or small. King was a huge fan of Lost, and co-creator Damon Lindelof reportedly loved The Dark Tower so much that he brought a rare first edition of The Gunslinger to an interview that EW did with himself, Abrams, and King. It made perfect sense. Humorously enough, so little was known about Abrams' Cloverfield at the time, that the website even theorized that it might be a codename for The Dark Tower.

Shortly thereafter, King appeared at Comic-Con and confirmed the news to Cinematical. King even confirmed that Frank Darabont had come to him with an idea on The Dark Tower, but that he thought Darabont had too much on his plate to get it done (and the Lost team doesn't?!?!) Lindelof is still working on Lost, J.J.'s busy making Star Trek, and it's unclear when (or even "if") The Dark Tower is coming to TV or your local movie theatre, or what it will eventually look like when it does. But that's not going to stop fans from speculating. Abrams will be finishing up Star Trek soon. Lindelof is almost a lock to get the first screenwriting credit. And, heck, even if they're not focusing on The Dark Tower directly, they're probably bouncing around ideas while Evangeline Lilly gets her make-up done or the new Enterprise crew gets a few more CGI touch-ups.

The potential inherent in The Dark Tower movies is as high as anything currently in production in Hollywood. These movies could be as important as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. But they need to be done right. How? Let us offer some advice.

1. Respect for the Scope

First and foremost, do at least seven BIG-SCREEN Dark Tower movies. We don't want a mini-series. These are words that we might be forced to eat. If anyone could prove us wrong, it's the people who made a weekly obsession about a smoke monster. However, The Dark Tower will NOT work as effectively on TV as it would in theaters. At their best, the books exemplify the finest use of pacing in King's entire career. It's a speed that can simply not be deflated by Mac & PC's latest ad. HBO or Showtime, you say? Maybe. What HBO has produced from their mini-series department - Angels in America and Band of Brothers, in particular - illustrate the kind of scope needed. At the very least, HBO would certainly be a better home than the broadcast nets, but these things took most of us half of our lives to read. Why not give them the time and the grandeur they deserve in the multiplex? The franchise should follow the directorial pattern of the Harry Potter movies (without the involvement of Chris Columbus, of course) and hand off the helming reins from film to film. Like that billion-dollar Potter baby, the final books could even be split into more than one movie. So be it. Let this thing breathe, and ignore the temptation to shove it into six, commercial-filled hours on ABC. Please. (Oh, and if Mick Garris comes within 100 feet of the Dark Tower franchise, you have our permission to shoot first, ask questions later.)

2. Pedigree Behind the Camera

Please, we're begging, if this goes to the big screen and finds life as a series of movies with several directors, they need to be perfect hires. The Dark Tower is going to be a tough sell to the mainstream masses and, if the first film doesn't make money, there won't be more. So, as much as we value quality over marketing, The Gunslinger needs to be a hit in every way. Although not necessarily for the lead role, there needs to be A-list talent attached to the project to bring in A-list directors behind the camera, which will have a good shot at translating to quality and lead to audiences. Mick Garris' The Drawing of the Three is not a hit. Brett Ratner's The Waste Lands would lead to riots. There are certain franchises where the name behind the camera isn't as important (The Mummy, Fantastic Four, Rush Hour), but the Dark Tower franchise needs a pedigreed director behind every film to bring in moviegoers who might be turned off by the genre nature of the material. Let's assume that J.J. Abrams directs the first one from a script by Lindelof. It's highly unlikely that he'll want to direct the rest and commit so many years of his life to one project. In fact, he'd need to start talking to the people that he'd plan to hand the baton to now. And, he'd need to shoot for the stars. Why not talk to Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro, and Alfonso Cuaron? Even thinking outside the box isn't a bad idea. Christopher Nolan's Wizard and Glass comes to mind. Why not give Joss Whedon the last film? The entire franchise is so inspired by the Western, maybe J.J. should even call the people who made the best Western in recent years, The Coen Brothers. King took so many risks with The Dark Tower. Take some with the director, but make sure it's one who knows how to handle them.

Original here

Zack and Miri vs. the MPAA

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Kevin Smith has already had one run in with the MPAA for Zack and Miri, having to take down an internet only trailer, and now it looks like he might be facing some bigger problems. It would appear that Zack and Miri Make a Porno isn’t the type of flick the MPAA wants to give an R rating too, but rather the deadly NC-17.

Seth Rogen recently revealed the potential problem to MTV.

“The MPAA is gunning for us, I think, it’s a really filthy movie. I hear they are having some problems getting an R rating from an NC-17 rating, which is never good.”

“A guy f—ing a donkey, (in Clerks 2) they ain’t got no problem with,” he continued. “But a man and a woman having sex they seem to have real issues with, for some weird reason. It’s insane. It’s completely insane.”

“They [fight against] sex stuff. Isn’t that weird? It’s really crazy to me that ‘Hostel’ is fine, with people gouging their eyes out and sh– like that,” Rogen shrugged. “But you can’t show two people having sex — that’s too much.”

I half expected this to happen, simply because of the title and the director, but Rogen makes a good point. Sex seems to be taboo with the MPAA, but hardcore violence tends to get a pass. Here’s hoping Smith doesn’t have to cut too much to appease the rating gods.