Sunday, March 29, 2009

Let the Joker Win

by Gabe Medina

The Joker. Quite simply: the greatest villain of all-time.

He is such a great character that I often find myself rooting for the Joker to win instead of the hero. His motivation is simple: insanity. Most villains are bent on world domination but not Mr. J. He does things simply because it amuses him. His complicated death traps, poison squirting boutonnières, and signature purple suit don’t just intimidate his victims and puzzle his adversaries. They make him laugh. In every incarnation of the Joker, from films, cartoons, or comic books I always find myself disappointed when he isn’t triumphant.


In Batman: The Killing Joke we find the Joker trying to make one simple little point: The only difference between normalcy and insanity is just one bad day. He goes to great lengths to prove his point by kidnapping the Commissioner and shooting his daughter. And through the course of events I started to realize that maybe The Joker is right? After all, Batman is clearly insane. Why else would he dress up as a flying rodent and hide in the dark?

And before I could put the pieces together myself I see the Joker deduce something clearly obvious to him: Batman once had a bad day too. Needless to say I was disheartened when that infernal Batman foiled Mr. J’s plans. And people can say what they want about the ending, I for one like to believe it was simply too adversaries with mutual respect for one another sharing a good laugh.


The next time I found myself rooting for The Clown Prince of Crime was in an underappreciated gem of an episode from Justice League Unlimited titled: “Wild Cards”. Placing bombs through the Las Vegas Strip daring The Justice League to try and find them. He dispatches The Royal Flush gang to further complicate the League’s efforts. All while having his own personal TV crews broadcast the showdown live on the air.

And Mr. J isn’t really trying to kill the League, he’s only trying to boost ratings for his show and get as many viewers as possible. When the Joker’s real plans are revealed I can do nothing more than applaud his masterful schemes. Creating mayhem is more than a labor of love for him, its artwork. And while I’m hooting and hollering because Mr. J is finally going to be victorious; he is betrayed someone very close to him.


The last time I believed The Joker would finally have his day in the sun was in The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance as an agent of chaos had me questioning my own sanity. After witnessing his “pencil trick” I too wanted to die my hair green and wear a lavender coat. Every step of the way The Joker’s plans got bigger and more grandiose. Kidnapping the DA and his girlfriend, assassinating the mayor, and blowing up hospitals.

Most of the time we are led to believe The Joker is doing this for monetary compensation. But I knew better. I knew that when Mr. J finally got his hands on all that loot he was going to show those mob bosses that he is more than just a mere street thug. He’s an idealist. A man of principle. When we finally get to see his true plans for Gotham City it was like a crescendo of events. Unfortunately, once again The God Damned Batman shows up to ruin all the fun.


The Joker transcends the comic book medium and is easily on par with the likes of Dr. Hannibal Lector, Professor Moriarty, and Darth Vader. I hope someone at DC Comics is listening. Give the Joker his due! Create an Elseword’s story! Show me a parallel universe where The Joker’s vision is finally realized. Give me a hypothetical look into a dystopian future laid out in a 12 issue maxi-series. Do something, anything. Please DC, make my dreams come true: Let The Joker Win!

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Discovery's 'Universe' promises to rule History

Property of History Discovery

Discovery Channel announced Thursday a new project that aims to do for outer space what "Planet Earth" did for polar bears. "Stephen Hawking's Universe" is a multi-million-dollar three-part special that uses the physicist's theories and expensive-looking CGI to tell you everything that scientists highly suspect about our galaxy and beyond.

"You got the greatest living mind in the universe and we’re taking his knowledge and presenting it to people with fabulous computer graphics," says Discovery president and general manager John Ford. "We start at the beginning of time, then go into whether time travel is possible, whether we are alone and some of the great questions."

Which sounds awesome for us astronomy buffs, and will probably be another content cash machine for Discovery. Can't you already imagine the "Universe" Blu-ray DVD selling like crazy on Wait ... it's already listed on there. How did ... oh, that's a DVD of the History Channel's "Universe."

See, Discovery's cable rival has a series in its third season that's also called "Universe" that likewise explores the mysteries of the cosmos in high-def with snazzy computer graphics.

But Discovery promises their "Universe," which comes out next year, is going to wipe the floor with History's "Universe."

"'Universe' is a good show, but it's a weekly series on a weekly series budget," Ford says, laying it down. "What we’re doing is a multi-million-dollar investment ... We plan it to be truly an immersible experience. When we take you to Mercury you’re going to feel like you’re on Mercury."

Damn straight.

1. Discovery has Hawking. And Hawking, man, he has a string theory about antimatter that History doesn't even know about.

2. Though Hawking will lend his theories to Discovery's project, he won't be narrating, which is ideal.

Hours of listening to Hawking's synthetic voice would, let's be honest, take away from the fun of whooshing between Saturn's rings. An actor who has played Hawking in previous projects will narrate instead. (It should be noted here that Hawking could sound like Ian McKellen nowadays if he wanted to. He reportedly still uses the same Speak & Spell robot voice to communicate because he considers it to be his trademark. It's odd that the GPS in your car uses more advanced voice technology than the world's most famous theoretical physicist, but there you go. Though even if Hawking's voice was used, the man still manages to project more warmth than "Planet Earth" narrator Sigourney Weaver.)

3. As Ford points out, they're going to spend a bunch of money.

History's "Universe" is pretty good, but the experts interviewed on the show seem like they're the people at their respective institutions who give tours to the fourth-grade classes on their field trips. Yet as hard as they try to talk down to History's audience, they don't always succeed and sometimes blurt out incomprehensible tidbits. The result is feeling like you're being condescended to by somebody who is legitimately way too smart for you (see Clip 1, below). How does Discovery spending more money on their project solve this issue? Dunno, but it can't hurt.

4. Discovery's "Universe" will be much shorter than History's.

As fun as History's "Universe" is to watch while doing crunches in your living room, the show seems like it's starting to run a bit dry of material despite having infinity to play with (see Clip 2, the "Sex in Space" episode).

"If we pull this off, this will do for the universe what 'Planet Earth' did for here," Ford says. "We hope to scorch the earth for anybody who wants to follow us, at least for a few years."

I love that the president of a natural-world cable network is willing to scorch the earth with his project's planned supremacy. At this point I'm picturing Ford with blue face paint rallying his CGI team for battle. Discovery vs. History. The universe isn't big enough for the both of them.

PREVIOUS: Buzz Aldrin's freaky space travel story

The Sorry State Of Music Startups

by Michael Arrington

Online streaming music startups are in one very sorry place. On demand streaming rates range from .4 cents to 1 cent per stream - this is what the startups pay to the labels every time they play a song for a user. Add bandwidth and storage costs on top of that, which aren’t trivial for services that want to stream music quickly on demand. The result is hundreds of millions of dollars flowing from venture funds to startups to labels. Little of it makes its way to artists, and advertising revenues only cover a tiny portion of the fees.

The labels don’t care if the startups make money, lose money or go out of business. All they want is to make enough money to extend the ultimate surrender date as long as possible. That’s when we’ll finally see the economic reality dictated by the Internet impose itself irrevocably on the music industry. Unless draconian laws are created and enforced that put people in jail, or worse, for file sharing. And even that probably won’t work.

Anyway, these crazy economics are making the music startups skittish. MySpace Music, the biggest player in this space, may be spending $2 million or more per week to the music labels based on their own statistics that they’re streaming over a billion songs a week. Their streaming rate is likely to be the best in the industry, and it almost certainly isn’t lower than .4 cents per song. There is no way that they’re making that much in advertising revenue.

The hope is that downloads, ticket sales, merchandise and ring tones will make up the difference, but what we’re hearing is that very little incremental revenue is being made from these other revenue sources.

That means there’s no chance for these startups to work until the labels reduce, significantly, the streaming rates they’re charging. Or agree to radically different business models. There’s no sign that is happening any time soon.

These crazy economics are making startups do odd things. I emailed one startup recently to suggest a post here on TechCrunch noting that they seem to be doing well - recent setbacks with partners didn’t hurt traffic as much as it may have, and I wanted to note that. The startup flat out asked me not to post, because they didn’t want positive press to impact their negotiations with labels. They had to present as desperate a situation as possible.

Read that again: streaming music startups don’t want more people using their service, because they lose money from every one of them, and the perceived success from having more users makes it harder for them to plead with the labels to give them better deals.

Then there’s imeem. A few days ago I had multiple conversations with the startup around rumors that they owed significant amounts of money to the labels that they couldn’t pay, and that they had failed to raise money or sell themselves. Not much information was shared, other than to say that the rumored $30 million owed to labels was too high. Now they tell VentureBeat that the number is in the single digit millions.

Whatever the number - $30 million or $1 million - imeem can’t pay it. Their business model doesn’t work and it is going to continue to not work until the labels let it work. And they aren’t going to be doing that any time soon.

Big Music Doesn’t Like Streaming Music

The big music labels don’t like streaming music because it doesn’t help them offset declining CD sales, and the evidence now suggests that streaming doesn’t lead to music downloads. Everything we’re hearing says that the labels would like to see streaming music startups just go away for now so that they can focus on maximizing paid downloads and extend that ultimate surrender date.

So when you hear about labels renegotiating streaming deals to help out music startups, be skeptical. They’re likely lowering the rates from 1 cent down to something closer to .4 cents per stream. And all that means is that these startups will bleed a little slower. But they’re still going to go out of business, because the venture firms are done investing in them.

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"Why Go" (Pearl Jam Cover) (Video)

As part of a celebration for the deluxe reissue of Pearl Jam's debut album Ten , which was released today, MTV2 asked a number of groups to cover their favorite tracks from the grunge classic. Perhaps the strangest among them is Midwestern rapper P.O.S., who takes on "Why Go" in this video. He's an even more surprising choice when you consider the other bands tapped for the project are the boring whiners of Staind and the equally pretentious and plain The Academy Is…

But even though P.O.S. warns us about his voice at the beginning, stating that "There's no auto-tune in Grunge Music, guys," he actually proves a very able stand-in for Mr. Vedder. He lays some nice keyboard lines over his reprogrammed version of the song, and though at its base this cover is pretty faithful to the original, it's still pretty damn good. P.O.S. pays irony-free homage and puts his own spin on the song at the same time. Not bad for an MTV2 project that is, in about every other way, a dull failure.

Here's the YouTube version below if you can't view MTV's videos or wish to skip the pre-roll advertisement.

Original here


Marvel has reportedly started a writer’s program, putting “more than a half dozen” writers on full-time staff and giving them their own offices with a plan to “work them like horses.”

Before the writers are even allowed to come in and meet, they must sign a non-disclosure agreement and a 70-page, non-negotiable contract. Among other things, the contract gives Marvel ownership over everything the writers create during the one year term of [the] deal, plus a first look and last refusal to any and all projects the writers have previously written or will write for 24 months in the future. [DHD]

They may get some good movies out of this, but if there are there any lawyers reading this, I’d like to know: do these post-termination agreements actually stand up in court? I can see being able to control your employees while they’re working for you, but believing you can dictate terms even after they leave (and for two years after) is just pure balls. Imagine you show up, they treat you like crap, nothing about the job pans out as promised, and you leave after a week. You still owe them the right to anything you create (to possibly acquire just to keep it from being made elsewhere) for the next two years? See, this is why all my semi-autobiographical poetry is self-published. I’m nobody’s slave, as you can clearly see by the inscription on this tattoo of an eagle riding a Harley.

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20 Movies That Destroy New York

By: Eric Alt

Nicolas Cage's new movie Knowing is once again putting a fictional New York in the path of destruction. Check out our review here. Being one of the most iconic cities in the world means that Manhattan is ripe for filmmakers looking to make a visceral impact. After all, what could be more gasp-inducing than torching the Empire State Building? Or flooding Grand Central Station? Or stomping all over the Brooklyn Bridge? New York has always been a prime target for disaster, and even after real disasters have toppled some of its towers, filmmakers still can't stay away.

20. Independence Day (1996)

Despite some geographical inaccuracy (the Empire State Building does not straddle an North-South street), serial New York–abuser Roland Emmerich certainly makes his point anyway. When the hovering alien spacecraft get the "go" sign, Gregory Johnson's iconic design gets lit up like a Roman candle, and Manhattan learns the hard way that not all tourists want to pose for pictures in Times Square and catch a matinee of Legally Blonde.

19. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Emmerich again. This time, severe changes in the Earth's climate cause New York to get flooded like a cheap Chevy, and then frozen solid. Why this also causes giant werewolves to appear is cause for debate (we choose the "bad CGI" argument), but this was one circumstance where New Yorkers actually would have preferred the snow turn to a slushy gray muck like it usually does ten seconds after a blizzard.

18. Godzilla (1998)

OK, Emmerich, we get it. You like to see New York decimated. Fine. This time, the German director unleashes a giant lizard in the city so nice they named it twice, and a great many recognizable landmarks suffer as a result. We're not sure if that ending. Godzilla is finally stopped by the criss-crossing cables of the Brooklyn Bridge was meant to be a subtle joke for Manhattanites who equate moving to Brooklyn with death, but we like to think it is, anyway.

17. Men in Black II (2002)

To think, the MIBs spend so much time covering their tracks and erasing memories and yet, if you told the average N.Y. commuter that giant, subway-car-sized space slugs lived in the tunnels, they probably wouldn't bat an eye. They have seen far more disturbing things inside a subway car. MIB2 is relatively gentle on the big city, though, and even its predecessor saved most of its destructiveness for Queens where, let's be honest, no one's really going to notice.

16. Superman II (1980)

When Tim Burton made Batman's Gotham City, he made it so that it didn't resemble any other city the audience knew of (well, maybe some areas of Berlin). Richard Donner, however, wanted people to buy his location as "Metropolis" even though THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING is sticking up right in the middle of midtown. That's like painting wings on an elephant and calling it an eagle. When Supes throws down with General Zod and his flunkies, there's no mistaking that it's Times Square feeling the brunt of the super-fisticuffs.

15. Q (1982)

It's an old New York joke that you can tell who the tourists are because they are the only ones looking up. New Yorkers don't need to gawk at their skyscrapers, making Q's conceit that a giant winged serpent could nest atop the Empire State Building without anyone noticing until it starts eating people utterly believable. Hindered by 1982 special effects, the movie opts for "mystery" over large-scale carnage, but thinking of monumental buildings as home to man-eating monstrosities is disturbing enough.

14. When Worlds Collide (1951)

Before Roland Emmerich got the notion to turn Manhattan's cavernous streets into a log flume, legendary sci-fi producer George Pal busted out the miniatures and the garden hose in When Worlds Collide. The tale of a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth (see? The title isn't a metaphor), the end is not a pleasant one for New York. It gets flooded with enough seawater to drown everything save the cockroaches.

13. Deep Impact (1998)

Before Roland Emmerich got the notion to turn Manhattan's cavernous streets into a log flume, but after George Pal did the exact same thing, director Mimi Leder…aw, forget it. Meteor. Hits earth. New York floods. Let's move on.

12. The Warriors (1979)

Not all destruction has to be an extinction-level event. In The Warriors, the Big Apple is rotting from the inside -- the generally good, hard-working, no-nonsense New Yorkers who are the city's heart and soul have been chased to the periphery and replaced by elaborately-dressed and ultra-violent gangs. These clown-faced crooks have the run of the entire island (and the surrounding boroughs), and civilians are hardly seen at all, which leads to the chilling conclusion that unless you pick a clan, you're pretty much a walking ghost.

11. Planet of the Apes (1968)

After all the hunting, capturing, escaping, and laying on of stinking paws, Charlton Heston wanders down a desolate stretch of beach to discover…the Statue of Liberty! All this time, he's been among ape-men who have built a civilization on the ruins of what was once New York. Well, OK, it could have been New Jersey. But still — we blew it up! Damn us all to hell!

10. Escape from New York (1981)

In John Carpenter's dystopian thriller, New York's crime rate gets so uncontrollably bad the U.S. government decides to simply wall it up and let it exist as a giant prison. While this scenario doesn't look too kindly on New York, the film's production doesn't look too kindly on another city: East St. Louis. Unable to find a N.Y. location suitably burned-out, run-down, and pathetic enough to convince as a city-prison, Carpenter had to film nearly all of Escape's exteriors in the sad sack Illinois city.

9. The Siege (1998)

Taking a much more grounded tact that some of the other films listed here, The Siege preyed on our worst real life fears -- rampant terror attacks in major cities -- several years before 9/11, and showed us a devastated Manhattan under martial law. It kind of makes giant lizards and supervillains seem kind of cozy and safe, doesn't it?

8. 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)

An Italian cheapie knock-off of Escape from New York, 2019 envisions a nuclear-decimated New York inhabited by radioactive freaks and monsters. Luckily for the filmmakers, the "post-apocalypse" setting allowed for much of the action to take place in nondescript parking lots and empty patched of desert, rather than, say, having to hire the manpower to shut down large portions of Fifth Avenue. All the saved money is on the screen, folks.

7. Ghostbusters (1984)/Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

Look, having the world's only paranormal janitors based in Tribeca is bound to bring some undesirables into your neighborhood. First, large sections of the Upper West Side get stomped on (and ultimately covered in charred marshmallow), then a river of slime underneath the city streets conjure up a vengeful spirit from the past. The Ghostbusters' means of disposal may not be tidy -- they wreck as much of Manhattan as the ghoulies -- but at least they do something. Nobody steps on a church in their town.

6. Armageddon (1998)

Michael Bay might have gone the hackneyed "New York landmark destruction" route, but give him some credit for at least picking two slightly lesser-used landmarks. In illustrating a meteor showers' path of destruction, Bay shows the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station getting torn apart by hunks of space rock in addition to several taxi cabs near a "53rd Street Station," which is in that trendy N.Y. neighborhood known as "Obvious Studio Backlot."

5. King Kong (2005)

Forget Mel Brooks, a thousand chorus dancers, or a Stephen Sondheim song — remember the simple days when all you needed to open on Broadway was a big ape in chains? Once Kong got out, however, things go very bad for 1930s Times Square. Cars are thrown, buildings crushed, and Central Park's frozen ponds subject to inhuman levels of sentimentality. The Empire State Building, despite being the location for the final showdown, gets by with a few dings and scratches. The streets below, however…

4. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Like Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow, the Earth's fragile ecosystem is to blame for New York's eventual flooding and destruction -- but unlike Emmerich, Steven Spielberg only shows us the aftermath, not the disaster. And like Planet of the Apes, the Statue of Liberty is used as the chilling reminder of what once was (her torch barely peaking out above sea level is eerie in much the same way her beach-logged torso was in Apes).

3. War of the Worlds (2005)

Perhaps realizing he missed an opportunity with A.I., Spielberg made up for it by piling on the N.Y. decimation in his remake of War of the Worlds. From the vantage point of Bayonne, New Jersey, we see bridges twisting like licorice and entire swaths of the city getting ripped apart. The entire Eastern seaboard feels the brunt of the alien attack, so for once New York isn't unfairly singled out for termination.

2. I Am Legend (2007)

There is nothing more chilling than the sight of a New York City completely devoid of people. It's somehow more unnatural and more disturbing than an alien invasion, giant meteor, or epic tsunami. People surrender their desire for piece and quiet the minute they sign the rental agreement on a N.Y. apartment, so the idea that there could be more vegetation than people on Fifth Avenue is tough to swallow. New Yorkers being wholesale turned into vampires isn't any easier.

1. Sex and the City: The Movie (2008)

Without a doubt, the combined forces of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda have been more devastating to life in New York than anything dreamed up by Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay. As a cable series, Sex turned New York's way of life upside down -- convincing millions of Midwest dreamers that they could afford a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment by writing a single newspaper column every four months, that they could subsist entirely on Cosmos and pastries, and that they would magically have enough free time and disposable income to lunch with the girls in between Manolo Blahnik shopping sprees. Utterly devastating.

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Ron Howard Sees Monsters

By Katey Rich

I don't know if you've been paying attention, but old-timey horror is totally back. MGM is bringing back like half of its old monster movies, Universal is planning a remake of The Wolf Man, and now even Ron Howard wants in on the action. He'll be making a movie that's kind of a horror movie, kind of a biopic of horror author H.P. Lovecraft, and kind of a graphic novel adaptation.

Ron Howard, we hardly knew you to be so creative! He, Universal and Imagine Entertainment have picked up the rights to The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, a new graphic novel series about the young Lovecraft coming across real-life versions of the evil things he imagined in his books. Variety says it's only a potential directing project for Howard, which might mean it's not too late for someone like Guillermo del Toro to swoop in and take it. But it wouldn't surprise me if Howard, whose directing career has been pretty varied, wanted to head off in this new direction.

So do we think Ron Howard can conjure up some convincingly awful beasts and scary nightmares? I'm skeptical, but also curious enough to want to give him the shot.

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Why 3D Movies Represent Everything Wrong With Our Country

By Mack Rawden

Like Battlestar Galactica creator Glen Larson and certain bonnet-wearing prudes in Upper Pennsylvania, I am skeptical of most new technologies. Oh, I try practically all of them, even smuggle a few into my bag of tricks (like Tivo), but I can’t shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe pizza delivery in under thirty minutes isn’t the brightest idea. Maybe strength training with BowFlex three days a week for a half hour isn’t a real workout. Maybe ten year old boys seeing their first pair of boobies on the internet isn’t better than mistakenly stumbling on their father’s cache of smutty magazines. Perhaps I’m out of touch; perhaps I’m that old guy in Finding Forrester. I can’t really be sure, but when Matt Damon openly wonders in Good Will Hunting whether there’s more value in working construction than solving equations, I sympathize with his moral predicament. We’re not in a recession right now because a few banks made a slew of high risk loans; we’re in a recession right now because the average American is no longer willing to work hard for his keep. And why should he when all his friends take the easy way out? You should have to work when you go to the movies, work to understand why the characters are behaving as they are. And that’s why I can’t get behind any movie made in 3D.

It’s not that I have any axe to grind with the third dimension itself. I appreciate its right to exist and even endorse Hollywood’s right to explore new mediums of entertainment. But I see where all of this is going. I’ve uncovered the ten year plan, and it’s stained with lowest common denominator bullshit. You know why the Miss American Pageant isn’t even on Network Television anymore? Because our idea of beauty is so far out of wack in this country, we secretly hate ourselves for it. The curvy girl next door with pigtails and dreams of being a nurse has been benched for the hungry slut with fake boobs trying to seduce her way into Malibu. Well, fuck that noise. Shiny things usually lack depth, and right now, the third dimension lacks purpose.

Some might argue, one day all forms of entertainment will be in 3D. Television sets will beam George Costanza and Marcia Brady right next to your couch, and CD players, which will no longer be called CD players, will let you watch Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra sing you to sleep. Hell, Ed Asner might actually yell at you and Janis Joplin might ask for a duet. I haven’t the slightest idea where technology is headed, but that stuff would only be cool because Marcia Brady is the sexiest teenager of all-time and Jimi Hendrix plays the guitar like a motherfucker. But that’s not where we’re headed. Right now, 3D movies are on pace to be just like goddamn fireworks, worth their salt on July 4th, but much more than that and they come off as hokey, stupid--forced entertainment. I’m not ready to get on board with Joe Jonas tucking me in every night. Not because I don’t want 3D representations telling me yesterday, there troubles were so far away but because I don’t want just any 3D representation telling me they’ve got me, babe.

3D movies should be awesome. We should want them more than Montag’s wife wanted that third television wall. But I can’t want it because its repercussions scare the shit out of me. I’m not here to hate on Michael Bay because this is an article about 3D movies, but he provides the perfect analogy for why I want nothing to do with this new-fangled brainstorm. I hate most Michael Bay movies because they’re just shiny things. An hour and a half of visually stimulating nothingness followed by ten minute conversations consisting of, “Were you watching when that guy got impaled on the rusty pole?”. But most of you goddamn idiots, most of you goddamn members of Ritalin Generation love Michael Bay movies because, to you, visually stimulating nothingness is everything. Well, going to the movies shouldn’t be vapid, mindless entertainment. You should cry; you should laugh; you should fall in love with the characters; you should fall out of love with the characters; you should think; you should question; you should ponder; you should, flat out, be alive. I’ve never felt any of those things because glasses tricked me into thinking actors were stepping down off the screen.

Maybe Monsters Vs Aliens will prove to me why the third dimension is, right now, more than just a daffy, eye-catching gimmick. I seriously doubt it will bring anything to the table beyond novelty. We’ll see on Friday. But just because you were visually stimulated by nothingness once doesn’t mean you want that to be your only option. If there was some sort or referendum on the ballot, I’d vote to bring Coke II back--but not at the expense of Coke.

Original here

A Hollywood Pitch: Bring the Junkets Back

The new W Hotel on the corner of Hollywood and Vine will have the layout and equipment needed for the stars of new movies to give taped interviews, which can total as many as 50 over a weekend.


LOS ANGELES — The developers of a $350 million luxury hotel and condominium project in this city’s historic “filmland” district are making a pitch to the motion picture industry: bring the business of promoting movies back to Hollywood.

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Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Marty Collins of Gatehouse Capital is the developer of the W Hotel.

Marty Collins, chief executive of Gatehouse Capital, which is based in Dallas and is building the 305-room W Hotel & Residences in partnership with HEI Hotels & Resorts of Norwalk, Conn., says the hotel has been designed to host an elaborate ritual of movie promotion known as the press junket.

Typically, a junket is a weekend-long event involving reporters, publicists, cameramen and film stars. Currently, these promotional events take place almost entirely in the luxury hotels of Beverly Hills, several miles west of Hollywood.

One hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, by itself enjoys “about 90 percent” of the junket trade, according to Mr. Collins. Jorge Collazo, the Four Seasons’ director of marketing, said he could not quantify the market share, but confirmed that his hotel “definitely has the majority of the junketing business.”

Mr. Collins says he wants to emulate the success of the Four Seasons by bringing movie marketing to the iconic corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, where the W Hotel is nearing completion. In his words, “I want to bring Hollywood back to Hollywood.”

The success of the junket business in Beverly Hills, Mr. Collins added, is “largely a default position, because there are no five-star hotels in Hollywood.”

The new hotel will “fill a vacuum in Hollywood in a big way,” said Leslie Lambert, a regional administrator for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, which is overseeing the revitalization of the historic Hollywood district. Developer interest in Hollywood appears high, to judge from more than a dozen current proposals, including a 1.3-million-square-foot Millennium Hollywood residential, office and retail project. Directly across the street from the W Hotel is the proposed Boulevard 6200, with 1,042 rental units.

Designing a hotel that can accommodate junkets is not a casual undertaking, according to Edward Abeyta, principal of HKS Inc., an architecture firm based in Dallas that is responsible for the hotel-and-condominium complex.

Junkets are highly structured events and require a specific configuration of hospitality rooms and reception rooms, according to the architect. Some hotel rooms need at least three bathrooms, with two of them large enough for a hair stylist or makeup artist to work in.

Those same rooms need to be capable of being emptied of furniture at a moment’s notice so they can be transformed into “taping suites,” where actors can chat on camera with a succession of reporters and camera operators, who wait their turns in the adjoining hallway. In a single weekend under the lights, actors might grant up to 50 interviews.

The hotel floors used for junketing need extra electrical capacity, so that cameramen can plug in their equipment without special backup generators. Fiber optic cables are also helpful, so film crews can transmit interview video directly to stations.

Even without the choreography of the junketing floors, the W Hotel presented complex design demands.

Part of that complexity reflects on-site constraints. The redevelopment agency insisted that the developers work around two historic buildings: the Taft Building, a red brick 1920s office building on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, and a single-story retail building immediately south of the Taft on Vine.

Accordingly, the new building, which faces Hollywood Boulevard, rises no higher than 15 stories, the same height as the Taft, which figures prominently in the front facade of the hotel. Before construction of the new hotel and condos, the site was occupied by a group of aging commercial buildings and a parking lot.

The Taft, which like the second building is not owned by the developers, is an evocative fragment of old Hollywood, and might be seen as reinforcing the theme of preservation in the historic district. “On the four corners of Hollywood and Vine, three of them have integrated historical buildings into their new structures,” said Mr. Abeyta, the architect.

Directly beneath the hotel is an underground station of the Metro Rail Red Line subway, a line between the San Fernando Valley and downtown Los Angeles. (The hotel site, in fact, is owned by the subway operator, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Los Angeles County, which leased the land to the developers for 99 years.)

The resulting design is a Chinese puzzle of a building, with many interlocking parts. The front of the W Hotel & Residences has a U-shaped footprint that leaves an open courtyard above the subway station. The hotel and a 143-unit condominium complex each occupies a separate tower, connected by a “bridge” building. The condo units range in price from $800,000 to $9 million.

The hotel tower’s second story, which is part of the junket complex, has an open courtyard, for use if the hotel needs extra space for a large party. For a screening room, another attraction aimed at junketeers, the W is building an open-air movie theater in the same courtyard.

Like several recent buildings in Hollywood, the front facade of the W Hotel integrates billboards, one horizontal and one vertical, as architectural elements. “Signage is a key element of many historic buildings in Hollywood, and we thought it was important to identify ourselves with that,” Mr. Abeyta said.

When the W Hollywood hotel opens in November, the junketing wars can commence.

Mr. Collazo of the Four Seasons, for his part, says he is not anxious. “It is easy to create a building and make it pretty and have all the proper equipment,” the marketing manager said.

“The part you cannot produce so easily is the wealth of knowledge that comes from experience,” he added. “The human resource is clearly an advantage over any new product.”

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Top 10 Athletes Who Are Deadbeat Dads

Chris Bosh Deadbeat dadTotal Pro Sports - In honor of the recent Chris Bosh accusation made by his former girlfriend Allison Mathis that he is a deadbeat dad. We have compiled a list of who we think are the Top 10 Athletes Who Are Deadbeat Dads.

Deadbeat parent - Is a pejorative term referring to parents of either gender that have freely chosen not to be a financially supportive parent in their children's lives. Primarily used in the US and Canada, the gender-specific deadbeat dad and deadbeat mom are commonly used by the child support agency to refer to men and women who have fathered or mothered a child and willingly fail to pay child support ordered by a family law court or statutory agency such as the Child Support Agency. [Wikipedia]

Yes, a deadbeat dad is obviously someone who tries to avoid paying for child support. But in our opinion not paying for child support and fathering many children with multiple women is not only contrary to the values and morals set out by our society, it also ethically inappropriate for public figures who influence the vulnerable minds of their young and old fans. Can this be considered a deadbeat dad? We will leave this up to you to decide and to the conscious of each of these individuals that we hold with highest esteem.

10. Chris Bosh - We don't know just yet if he the prototypical deadbeat dad, but he is being accused by his former live in girlfriend Allison Mathis. We hope Chris can pull through this because he is a great guy and probably means no harm.

Willis McGahee9. Willis McGahee - Everyone probably remembers McGahee most for his gruesome knee injury during the Fiesta Bowl. But Willis McGahee makes our list for having 3 children with 3 different women in a short amount of time. Reportedly 2 of the children are with 2 different school teachers and one of whom was married at the time.

Glen Anderson8. Glen Anderson - Who would have thought an NHL'er would have been on the list? Glen Anderson is most famous for winning 5 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and another with the New York Rangers. He represented Canada at the 1980 Olympic Games and represented Canada twice at the World Championships and the Canada Cup. Back in July of 2002 Glen Anderson faced jail time because he failed to pay his monthly child support totaling the amount of $112,000 owing to his then 12 year old son.

Mike Tyson7. Mike Tyson - What would a top 10 list be with out Mike Tyson. Tyson has four children from three different mothers. Even if Tyson does support his children you have to feel sorry for the kids who call Iron Mike their father.

Karl Malone6. Karl Malone - Most will remember Karl Malone for his illustrious basketball career with the Utah Jazz. But did you know that NFL tackle, Demetrius Bell is an offspring of Karl Malone. Karl has never had any contact with Demetrius who's mother had him at the age of 13 years old when Malone was a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. When Bell was 18, Malone delivered a harsh message that, according to several reports, amounted to, "It's too late for me to be your father, and you'll earn your money on your own."

Evander Holyfield5. Evander Holyfield - Professional Boxer Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield had a career that most people could only dream of with 42 wins, 10 losses and 2 draws. Holyfield is reported to have at least 11 children, with numerous women. Not bad for a guy who was at one time a born again Christian.

Kenny Anderson4. Kenny Anderson - Is most remembered for holding out after he was traded to the Toronto Raptors. Back in August of 2006 the New York Post claimed that the former NBA All-Star is a deadbeat dad. He stiffed at least five of his seven children since leaving the NBA, three women with whom he has kids confirmed. Tami Roman his first wife says he owes the children about $100,000.

Ricky Jackson3. Ricky Jackson - Nobody probably remembers 6 time Pro Bowler Ricky Jackson. Ricky played with the New Orleans Saints for 12 years and was honored in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Ricky makes our list for top deadbeat dads because he has an outstanding child support bill of $130,000 and is "one of the ten most wanted deadbeats in Louisiana".

Shawn Kemp2. Shawn Kemp - Shawn Kemp wins the runner up award, he played in the NBA for 14 seasons with the Seattle Sonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trailblazers and the Orlando Magic. But Shawn will be remembered most for his sleeping around. Shawn had 7 children with 6 different women and it has been rumored that there were far more. Kemp also had his confrontations with the law back, in April of 2005 he Kemp was arrested in Shoreline, Washington he was found with cocaine, about 60 grams of marijuana and a semiautomatic pistol.

Travis Henry1. Travis Henry - I remember the days when Travis Henry was putting up huge numbers for my fantasy football team. Now, he has fathered a football team of his own, having eleven children with ten different women. Say what you will about Henry, but at least he is consistent. Those stats make him the undisputed king of Athletic deadbeat dads.

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Kobe's Maid Sues -- It Was the Crappiest Job Ever

by TMZ Staff

Kobe & VanessaKobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa are being sued by their former housekeeper, who claims Vanessa was incredibly abusive -- even demanding that she put her hand in a bag of dog feces to retrieve a tag from her blouse ... so Vanessa could deduct the cost of the blouse from the maid's salary!

Maria Jimenez claims Vanessa called her "lazy, slow, dumb, a f---ing liar, and f---ing sh-t."

In the lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Orange County, Jimenez claims Vanessa accused her of stealing her (mouth) retainer.

Jimenez says it got so bad -- Vanessa allegedly "badgered, harassed and humiliated Maria by yelling and screaming at Maria and criticizing her in front of Kobe, the Bryants' children, employees and other people in the household" -- she threatened to quit but Kobe talked her out of it.

The final straw: Vanessa went nuclear because Maria put an expensive blouse in the washer. Vanessa demanded that Maria put her hand in a bag of dog feces to retrieve the price tag for the blouse.

Maria says she wanted to quit and Vanessa responded that she "had to work until payday to pay for the $690 blouse, which she did."

Maria is suing for wrongful discharge, invasion of privacy and emotional distress and unpaid wages.

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Celebrity Magazines 'May Never Recover'

By Dylan Stableford

The consumer appetite for celebrity news has exploded in recent years. But shortsighted strategies, poor management and the recession have hit traditional celebrity media hard—so hard the nine magazines covering the space is too many, consolidation is inevitable as advertising and circulation erodes, and even the market’s dominant Web sites should be “looking over their shoulders.”

This, according to a new report from DeSilva + Phillips, a New York-based media banking firm, released today.

The rise of “feisty online alternatives” and the recession have sped up the decline of some celebrity media franchises, according to the report. But “timid magazine management” is also to blame.

As a result, celebrity magazines “have the most to lose” in terms of audience and revenues—“and they will certainly lose the most in the years ahead.” People, the report notes, is perhaps the only magazine to prove itself as a multi-platform leader—accounting for 24 percent of the category’s print circulation, 28 percent of its ad pages and “an eyebrow-raising” 43 percent of its revenues.

Even People, however, has “to face the same nagging issues: the segment’s dwindling readership base, the buyers’ market for advertising, and cost pressures across the board that are painfully compressing margins," the report said.

Celebrity Media M&A

The report points to the $1 sale of TV Guide, a magazine that once was acquired by Rupert Murdoch for $3 billion, as emblematic of the erosion of print’s value. “How [a] magazine is worth nominally .000000001 percent of what it was 20 years ago is a story for a B-school case study,” D+P managing director Ken Sonenclar, the author of the report, wrote. “But what’s most noteworthy now is that the sale excludes and the TV Guide Network cable channel, which were sold separately in January to Lions Gate Entertainment, the Vancouver-based film company, for $255 million. That’s where the seller realized growth and value.”

In terms of the future of celebrity media M&A, “select Web sites”—such as—“should be acquisition targets” as they appear to resist the recession’s downward pull and continue to attract eyeballs and advertisers.”
But “few gossip sites” have built the kind of loyal audiences or barriers to entry to warrant serious M&A interest.

A bigger fear for celebrity magazine publishers now is that the recession will end much differently than those in the past. Specifically, even when the economy eventually recovers, advertisers will direct their budgets to the Internet and television—and away from magazines. “The fear is justified,” Sonenclar wrote. “Magazine publishers’ eventual recovery will be slow, painful, and partial at best.”

He added: “Long-term winners online will have roots in print, TV and the web—and so will the losers.”

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