Archive for December, 2010

The Year Ahead: 2011

December 31, 2010

The Year Ahead: 2011

This is a special look ahead at some of the geeky highlights we expect in 2011.  For more details (and to have the events in chronological order), see our ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline

Movies

We’ve written before about how this may be the geekiest movie year ever.

There are sequels, what we call “sidequels” (movies in an existing universe, but not necessarily with the same characters or plot), remakes, and originals.

While Cars 2, the final Harry Potter, and Pirates 4 seem inevitable successes, there are others that are others that might be more of a surprise…and still reap big rewards.  Here are five:

Sucker Punch

Just like its name, this one may sneak up on a lot of people and knock them out.  Zack Snyder directs…and the trailers are getting a lot of buzz.  It’s not fronted by stars, although there are certainly some well-known names.  It’s going to be visually stunning.

Cowboys & Aliens

A straight-ahead concept, marquee stars, and a big money director.  If this flops, its in Ishtar territory…and I’m not expecting it to flop.

H.R. Pufnstuf

This is based on the beloved (and trippy…there’s no better word) TV series.   Almost nothing is coming out about it.  That may mean it’s stalled…or that they are really going to spring something on us.  I could see this doing really well…if audiences have the taste of Will Ferrell’s Land of the Lost out of their mouths by now.  😉

Rise of the Apes

As someone who watched all five Planet of the Apes movies in a row…in a movie theatre…in an apesuit, I may be a tad prejudiced.  😉  However, this one stars James Franco (and features John Lithgow), and is a prequel.  I can’t deny it, it’s one of the ones I’m really looking forward to seeing.  Franco could possibly win an Oscar (he’s definitely hosting) and follow it up with a PotA movie…so cool!

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Stephen Moffat is one of the most interesting geek screenwriters out there…Jekyll, Doctor Who, Sherlock.  Edgar Wright brought us Spaced (a great series), Shaun of the Dead, and Scott Pilgrim.  Tintin is a huge cultural presence in Europe…and oh yeah, it’s directed by Steven Spielberg.

TV

The Cape

This looks like a pretty straight up superhero show, which may be what people want.  If The Green Hornet disappoints, that might considerably up this.

Falling Skies and Terra Nova

TV series and Steven Spielberg?  That doesn’t always work out well…Amazing Stories (I know, some of you liked it), Earth 2 (although I thought Tim Curry deserved an Emmy nom), SeaQuest 2032?  On the other hand, there was that Taken miniseries.  These will undoubtedly look expensive…

Being Human (the American version)

A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost share a flat…um, apartment.  No, that isn’t the opening line for a joke…it’s the premise for a British series being adapted by Syfy.  It might sound silly, but the British version was more serious than the idea might suggest.

Torchwood

New episodes of Torchwood!  The return of Captain Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper!

Archer

I think this was the best new series of 2010…despite all the praise heaped on The Walking Dead.  It’s a racy, witty, animated spy spoof.

Miscellaneous geekiness

Watson the supercomputer competes on Jeopardy…if software can really understand all the subtle wordplay in those questions, it will be very impressive.

Comic-Con 2011…this is the con (convention) that gets the most coverage…starts July 21 (with previews on the 20th).  It’s the buzz maker.

Rage is a videogame from the folks who brought you Doom and Quake…and the first one in a long time.  Other videogames include: Star Wars: Old Republic (maybe); and The Sims Medieval. 

I’ve only barely scratched the surface with this..what 2011 movies, TV shows, games, and so on are you most anticipating?

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Aron Abrams reported dead

December 30, 2010

Aron Abrams reported dead

Aron Abrams, a producer and writer for 3rd Rock from the Sun, has been reportedly found dead in Hawaii.

He co-wrote an episode of Big Wolf on Campus which was broadcast in 1999.  He wrote six episodes for 3rd Rock, and was a co-producer for that geek favorite. 

His other work includes Everybody Hates Chris, Grounded for Life, Fired Up, and Glenn Martin DDS. 

Abrams was 50.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts

December 29, 2010

Amazon patents “preturns” of gifts

Did you ever get a gift from somebody and couldn’t believe they chose that for you?

What did you do?

Did you just keep it because, you know, it was a gift and you feel like that’s the right thing to do?  Later on, every time you opened the closet and saw that unwelcome gift your rolled your eyes at the gift-giver’s taste? 

Maybe you re-gifted it.  In many cases, you might think it was a perfectly good gift…just not for you.  That might even be because you already own it.  Hey, this a great way to go for that “white elephant” exchange at work.  Or maybe you donated it, took it to the Goodwill store.

However, what many people do is return it for a refund. 

With a brick-and-mortar store, that can be a hassle.  You have to make that trip to the mall, deal with the returns clerk, find something else, get back in-line…yuck. 

With an online retailer, like giant Amazon.com, you have to box it up, put a return label on it, send it back.  Even though they have made this easier than it used to be, it’s still a lot of work and expense for them.  Imagine this wonderful, amazing salt grinder…being sent to someone who has been put on a low-sodium diet.  It has to be boxed by Amazon, flown and/or trucked to the recipient across the country, who then opens it, boxes it up again, gets it back on a truck or plane, Amazon gets it, has to process the return, review the item, and maybe re-sell it.  They probably will end up sending you something else…not a good use of fossil fuels.

Not very efficient.

Amazon has a patent

7,831,439 

which can solve all that.

What if, before the salt grinder was sent out, you got an e-mail with a nice picture of it saying, “Aunt Mildred got you a salt grinder…would you like us to send it, or would you rather have a gift certificate?” 

The recipient can get credit before the gift is even sent.

They are doing a return, they are doing what I am hereby calling a “preturn”.  🙂

It’s a brilliant idea from a company that is always innovating.

Like many big changes, though, the hard part will be getting the public to accept it.

Would you be offended as the gift-giver?  Why, don’t you want the recipient to like your gift? 

I’d have to make a mental shift, but this is so much more ecological, so much more efficient…and yes, efficiency might seem antithetical to the excess that can come with gift-giving…that I could see really liking this.

The patent is even more complex than that.

The system allows for a great deal of computer logic.  You can set up rules to say what sorts of gifts should be “converted”, and what should happen to them.

For example, you can set a limit on the quantity.  Let’s say that somebody wants a Wii for the holidays.  A limit of one could say that the you get the Wii from the first person, but not from the second.  For the second person, you could say that it would be converted to a gift certificate…or even to specific items on your gift list.  So, the first person gave you the Wii, the second bought you those three games you really wanted.

It can be based on size: you used to wear an extra-large, now you wear a large.  You could set a rule that automatically converts the extra-large to a large.  You get the size you want, and the sender doesn’t have to guess or call Grandma first to get it.

I love this one: you could have the gift automatically sent to a charity.  That can also be based on type of gift: if I’m sent food, send it to the food bank.

You could also set up how it worked.  You could see the gift choice first, or get an automatic conversion.  The latter might be great on the wrong sizes, for example.  You could choose to have the sender notified…or not. 

If the sender was notified, it could even be a good marketing gimmick.  Send out free samples, and see what people did.  You could sign up for a program that way…you agree to let the manufacturer know the item you got instead if you preturned it. 

Size, quantity, timing (travel gifts after the trip), format (X-Box versus Playstation), product feature (no plaid, no leather), cost (you might not want a $100 gadget cover, but want a $20 one and other accessories), and even by person…lots of choices.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m a former retailer. 

However, better isn’t always popular…we still can’t get Americans to use the metric system.  😉

What do you think?  Is this against the spirit of giving?  Are the feelings of the giver more important than the feelings of the recipient?  Is it looking a gift horse in the mouth…and turning it into a motorcycle?  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Dream Cast: The Dark Shadows movie

December 29, 2010

Dream Cast: The Dark Shadows movie

The original Dark Shadows series was a huge fad in the 1960s. 

I’ve been watching it on streaming Netflix through my Roku.  The way they titled it threw me a bit, because it was called a “Collection”.  Well, I realized why…each title has 40 episodes!  They couldn’t do a whole “season” in one title (which usually an online version of a DVD release), because it ran like a soap opera (five days a week).  There were well over 1200 (!) episodes…compare that to the original Star Trek (79 episodes) or even the super-long-running The Simpsons (which has shown about 475 episodes).

As you can imagine, there were lots of storylines in that amount of episodes.

When Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp in the  2012 movie version, it’s hard to guess which characters might appear…outside of Barnabas Collins.  The script is being written by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

While they could pick and choose and even do an entirely new story line, I’m hoping they build it around the events that start with the appearance of Barnabas Collins.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, I’m going to warn you that when I describe the characters, there may be some mild spoilers.  I won’t talk so much about events that happen, but in describing a character, you might find out information about broad themes.

MILD SPOILER WARNING

Barnabas Collins (originally played by Jonathan Frid)…already cast with Johnny Depp.  Barnabas is a vampire who shows up at his family’s old estate, claiming to be a descendant of his.  People do notice his resemblance to a portrait of the “old” Barnabas, but welcome him as an unknown member of the European branch.  He sets in motion a number of events that form the basis of the story.  He is urbane and charismatic with most people, but can be really violent and evil.

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (originally played by Joan Bennett):  she is the matriarch of the Collins family when Barnabas arrives.  She is haughty and sophisticated, but not without her own secrets.  If Barnabas had not arrived, the drama would have probably focused around her.  I think Helen Mirren would be great in this part.  Other possibilities might be Holland Taylor or Susan Sullivan.

Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett) is Elizabeth’s blond, elegant daughter…who rebels and starts hanging out with a biker.  Since we know Helena Bonham Carter is likely to show up in a Tim Burton movie…she could play this.  I’d cast Jackson Rathbone as her boyfriend, Buzz…since he was one of our top ten Box Office MVPs for 2010.  😉

Roger Collins is Elizabeth’s brother, so he gets called “Uncle Roger”.  He’s upper class, and indignant with Jason’s activities.  This would be a good part for Kelsey Grammer…or maybe Hugh Laurie.

Victoria Winters (played by Alexandra Isles) is the live-in tutor/governess.  She is strong-willed and intelligent.  There’s more to her than her tutor role…there’s more to everyone in Collinswood.  😉  Anne Hathaway would bring the right wide-eyed, yet indefatigable feeling to it.

Jason McGuire (Dennis Patrick) is the smarmy schemer.  He is manipulative and evil…bold and ambitious.  He is arguably the true antagonist, in a different way than Barnabas (who stands a bit outside of everything).  Robert Downey Jr. would be great in this part…and who wouldn’t love to see Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr. in a battle of wills?

Willie Loomis (John Karlen) is a petty thief (originally working with Jason McGuire) who becomes Barnabas’ assistant…against his will.  He is haunted by what is happening, and seen as undesirable by the town…despite this, he tries to do some good.  Steve Buscemi could bring that oppressed anguish.  Crispin Glover would be another possibility.

Maggie Evans is a waitress in town who becomes a victim…and her experience mentally unhinges her.  We are scared for her, but root for her.  Kirsten Dunst would bring the pathos, and be able to play the range necessary for Maggie’s experiences.

Sam Evans (Mark Allen) is Maggie’s father, and an artist who is painting Barnabas’ portrait.  He seemed a bit…intense to me, and honestly, a little in your face.  I’d cast Jack Black for this one.

Dr. Woodard (who was played by several actors) is the town doctor.  He’s the frustrated one who is first following Maggie’s odd case….Lewis Black could be an interesting choice.  He later conflicts with a specialist, Dr. Hoffman…who could be played brilliantly by Jean Smart.

There are a lot of other smaller parts…Kristen Schaal could play Miss Johnson, the housekeeper; John Carroll Lynch could play Sheriff Patterson (Dana Elcar); Jon Hamm could play Burke Devlin (Mitch Ryan), Vickie’s wealthy boyfriend…and there are a couple of good kid’s parts.

All of that I haven’t even gotten to where Quentin Collins (David Selby), the werewolf, shows up!  I might save that for a sequel.

Now, I know I’m just dreaming with this cast…it’s awfully high-powered, and likely to be expensive (at least in some cases).  Kirsten Van Wagner, a relative unknown, has already been cast as Victoria Winters.  What do you think?  If you know the original series, who would you cast?  Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Flash! Geek movies added to National Film Registry

December 28, 2010

Flash! Geek movies added to National Film Registry

The Library of Congress announced this morning the 25 movies added to the National Film Registry.

I’m happy to report that a number of geek-friendly movies made the list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant works this year.

Of course, it’s a bit funny that it’s called a “film” registry.  I’ve had this discussion with other people before.  Some movies are not made on film at all anybody…they are digital.  That’s going to be increasingly true.  Calling them “films” is like saying you ” dial the phone“.  😉  We’re probably going to use that term for a while, though.

It’s also important to note that the LoC (Library of Congress) isn’t saying these are the best movies…just that they are significant.  The public nominates the movies…you can nominate the 2011 batch right now.  They actually prefer an e-mail to dross@loc.gov, although the link immediately above gives you an address to use as well.

What does it mean for the movies that were picked?  It means that the LoC will put an emphasis on preserving them. 

One last thing before I talk about nominees: some of the news stories I’m seeing contain (in the first sentence or two) one of the biggest spoilers of all time.  For me, there is no statute of limitations on spoilers a ten-year old seeing a classic movie for the first time deserves the same unspoiled experience people had when it was first released.  I know many people don’t agree with me on that, though.  🙂 

Here are some nominees, in no particular order:

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Many geeks consider this movie (the second released and officially #5 in the story sequence) to be the best of the Star Wars movies.  Undeniably, it gets parody shout-outs more than the first movie (which is already in the registry).   I think that’s an important measure (although not the only one) of cultural significance.

 The Exorcist (1973)

Undeniably, this movie influenced the industry and was hugely popular.  It was shocking and scary.  It brought horror to the masses, and in a sense, genre movies as well.  One of its stars, Max von Sydow, was also on our 2010 Box Office MVPs.

Electronic Labyrinth: THX 113B 4EB (1967)

Does this one belong here?  The short by George Lucas did win awards, but was it really culturally influential?  This is not the full-length movie, by the way.  It’s interesting, certainly, but seems like a bit of an odd choice to me.  How many people have seen it, or seen a movie and said, “That reminds me of the short George Lucas made eight years before Star Wars”? 

The Pink Panther (1964)

We’ve just recently lost Blake Edwards, who directed and co-wrote this goofy comedy classic starring Peter Sellers. 

Our Lady of the Sphere (1969)

Larry Jordan’s surrealistic animation will remind some of Terry Gilliam’s work on Monty Python (which followed it).  You can watch a less than pristine copy on YouTube here.

Airplane!

Ostensibly a satire of the Airport series of disaster movies, the movie brought a new level of silliness to popular movies.  One of the main things: taking actors formerly best-known for serious performances (Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and the late Leslie Nielsen) and letting them be absurd.

Other inducted titles for 2010 include: All the President’s Men; Saturday Night Fever; McCabe and Mrs. Miller; Malcolm X; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

There are twenty-five titles, and include some that are pretty obscure.  You can see the complete list in this

L. A. Times article

At the time of writing, they had not yet been posted to the

Official Site

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

The Week Ahead: December 27 2010 – January 2 2011

December 27, 2010

The Week Ahead: December 27 2010 – January 2 2011

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline.

Movies

Season of the Witch

It’s been several seasons since this Nicolas Cage-starrer was ready for release.  That’s not a good sign.  The trailers make is an “is she or isn’t she” with a 14th Century girl accused of being a witch.  It’s got some interesting people in it besides Cage: Ron Perlman; Christopher Lee; and Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire’s Capone).  The director, Dominic Sena, worked successfully with Cage on Gone in Sixty Seconds.  Still, I’d be surprised to see this get to $40 million dogro (domestic gross).

New TV

This is not a big week for new TV shows…January 1st does mark the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (which has the interesting acronym of OWN).

  • Ancient Aliens at 9:00 PM on the History Channel (Thursday)
  • Celebrity Ghost Stories (Joey Lawrence, Gabrielle Carteris, Paul Shaffer) at 9:00 PM on Bio (Saturday)
  • Primeval (4th season BBC America debut) at 9:00 (Saturday)

New Year’s Day Marathons (remember that you can also do your own marathons with streaming Netflix, OnDemand, Hulu, and other videosites)

  • Doctor Who on BBC America
  • The Game on BET
  • Scrubs on Comedy Central
  • Kid vs. Kat on Disney 😄
  • Wicked Attraction on ID
  • Larry Sanders Show on IFC
  • Jersey Shore on MTV
  • Snapped on Oxygen
  • Twilight Zone on Syfy
  • Law & Order on TNT
  • The Nanny on TVLand
  • NCIS on USA
  • One Tree Hill on Soap
  • Jerseylicious on Style
  • The March of Time on TCM
  • Freaky Eaters on TLC
  • Ghost Whisperer on WE

Cons

Cons are short for “conventions”, when people who rarely leave the house get together…just kidding, of course, they can be great fun.  For details, I recommend Fanboy’s Convention List.

Don’t have something to do on New Year’s Eve yet? 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

My take on Santa Claus (1959)

December 25, 2010

My take on Santa Claus (1959)

Picture if you will…

It’s 1959.  You live in a country where the children largely don’t know Santa Claus: they have other Christmas traditions.

You are a moviemaker.  Here is a marvelous opportunity for you to bring a brand new mythology to the land, and establish joyful childhood memories.

Only…

SPOILER ALERT

We don’t want to go too saccharine.  I know, we’ll cast a guy best-known for playing gun-wielding macho types as Santa!  And…um…we really need an antagonist.  Hey, how about Lucifer!  Yeah, he can send this weird plastic-eared red-painted demon to Earth to tempt poor little children into stealing toys…because they are never going to get any of their own!  Hahahaha!  Oh, and if Santa gets trapped on Earth (because we’ll put his headquarters in space, with disembodied ears and eyes and mechanical mouths so he can spy on kids and even on their dreams and he can have a bunch of little children up there from different parts of the world that sing and dance for him but we don’t know where their parents are) when the sun comes up his mechanical red-eyed reindeer will turn into dust!

If you do this just right, you can give kids nightmares and forestall the acceptance of Santa Claus in your country by decades!

(creepy Santa laugh)

Seriously, Santa Claus is one creepy (wait for it, I’ll probably say creepy a few more times) kid’s movie…it’s definitely up there with The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T and Invaders from Mars.

I didn’t even mention Merlin yet, and some half-naked guy with a red chest hair toupee who is supposed to be something like Vulcan (not a vulcan from Star Trek…the Roman blacksmith god), and Santa giving psychotropic cocktails to these rich parents who left their kid home alone on Christmas Eve so they could go party.

I’m really careful about spoilers, but you can’t spoil something like this…it’s not like the plot is particularly important.

This is available on streaming Netflix, so if you want something different today, give it a shot.  Just don’t let any impressionable young children see it…or they might have nightmares about Santa’s rope ladder outside their windows and that really, really, creepy Santa laugh.

DVD at Amazon

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. 

Fred Foy reported dead

December 23, 2010

Fred Foy reported dead

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…”

The Lone Ranger was one of the great radio shows, with a rich mythology, and a distinctive sound.

Anyone who’s heard the show recognizes the unique style of delivery in the opening.  The voice who told us about that “fiery horse with the speed of light” belonged to Fred Foy.

It wasn’t just the timbre of his voice…it was the delivery.  The way he took the sentences down at the end brought an unusual gravitas and seriousness to it.  You knew the Lone Ranger was something important, just from that opening.

He later did announcer work for ABC, and announced the Dick Cavett Show and $20,000 Pyramid.

Radio Hall of Fame bio

Hear Fred Foy’s intro to the 1960s radio drama, Theater Five

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Update: The Measured Circle’s 2010 Box Office MVPs

December 21, 2010

Update: The Measured Circle’s 2010 Box Office MVPs

We’ve updated The Measured Circle’s 2010 Box Office MVPs with the more than $40 million dollar opening of TRON: Legacy. 

Our top ten remains the same, but TRON added two other actors to our list:

  • Michael Sheen, who had already appeared in Alice in Wonderland in 2010, needed one more $40m movie
  • Cillian Murphy is uncredited in TRON: with that and Inception, he’s in

Unstoppable, Tangled, and Harry Potter all added to their US domestic grosses since we first posted this year’s list on December 14th.

As a reminder, The Measured Circle’s 2010 Top Ten Box Office MVPs (with updated grosses are:

#1, #2, #3 (tie) Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Timothy Spall all appeared in both Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland…giving them an average dogro of $300m. 

#4 Michael Keaton, thanks to voicing Ken in Toy Story 3 and appearing in The Other Guys, is fourth with $267m…didn’t pick him, did you? 

#5 Anne Hathaway, $222m (Alice in Wonderland, Valentine’s Day…Love and Other Drugs isn’t counted, because it hasn’t dogroed $40m)

#6 Jackson Rathbone, $216.5m (Eclipse and Airbender…ask your kids)

#7 Samuel L. Jackson, 215.5m (Iron Man 2, The Other Guys…he probably is always up there as an MVP)

#8 Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter and Clash of the Titans)

#9 Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island, Inception…if we only counted lead roles, he’d be higher)

#10 Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2, The Expendables)

Special thanks to all of the fansites of Jackson Rathbone (#7) who have linked to this site…and given us credit.  🙂 

For the full updated list (and more details), see the original post:

The Measured Circle’s 2010 Box Office MVPs

If anybody would like to nominate the list as a Hit List item for IMDb, we’d appreciate it:  http://www.imdb.com/board/bd0000089/threads/.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Steve Landesberg reported dead

December 21, 2010

Steve Landesberg reported dead

Barney Miller was a great series, with clearly defined characters…sort of like the original Star Trek in a Greenwich Village police station.

Joining the series in the second season was the laconic, intellectual, geeky Detective Dietrich, played by Steve Landesberg.  Dietrich seemed to know everything, and when asked where he was born during a lie detector test, he quoted Star Wars (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”).  His dry delivery, unflappable, sometimes with a bit of a smirk, was what made the character really work. 

Landesberg also guested on other geeky series: Mel Brooks’ When Things Were Rotten (as a wizard), Harry and the Hendersons, Ghost Whispererer.  His distinctive delivery also worked for voices: Dinosaurs, Capitol Critters..and several times on Hanna-Barbera’s meta-comedy, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

He was recently a regular on Head Case as Harvey Finkelstein. 

Thank you, Steve Landesberg, for showing American sitcom audiences that smart can be funny too.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. 


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