Category Archives: Jack Dodson

Spend weeks in your basement playing video games gearing up for this one. I know I will be.

For a while there I really thought there was a betterment in the standards of the movie industry. Obviously there were always exceptions, but the last couple years I’ve been an advocate for the path Hollywood was taking, producing some pretty good movies on high budgets with big name actors. I mentioned it in the bit about Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are. Awesome concept. Then the pretty cool direction the sub-genre of comic epics.

But I have officially been proved wrong. Perhaps it’s a tanked economy. Perhaps it’s desperation. Who knows. The man who brought us the incredibly revered Drag Me To Hell, Sam Raimi (also responsible for the Spiderman movies, which are a little cheesy compared to the better of that genre) is about to make a World of Warcraft Movie. Here’s a little bit of his work:

Yes, this is only a taste of some of the theme’s you’ll get in the WOW movie. I particularly like the seance. And that old woman’s teeth. Maybe there will be some awesome ghouls in this or some giant, badass, green hairy piglike creatures.

I’m going to say right now, too, that I have no knowledge of whether Warcraft is  good game or not. I’ve never played it.

I did play Zelda, which was awesome. I mean I spent hours coming home and fulfilling the incredible, action-packed quest of Link. But in no way shape or form would I want to see a movie made out of that.

All this comes in the wake of an announcement of a movie based on Asteroids, which is only cool cause it was before the days of video game plot. Great movie material. A NYT column takes a pretty decent stab at what that will be like.

So all of this is not necessarily to chastise the industry as a whole, because decent movies are still being put out–hence the other posts I had on this subject. But it’s almost an insult to the movie going population to be offered famous video games repackaged into a two-hour excuse to blow some stuff up.

The only thing that would redeem this is if they can pull it off with a kind of postmodern feel to it, a fresh perspective on it that takes itself lightly. But then the people who are absolutely in love with WOW will uproar. Sorry, Mr. Raimi, but you might have picked a doomed project.

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The Ever Expanding Comic Book Film Industry

If you’ve ever seen some of the old Batman cartoons or that utterly ridiculous rendition with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, you can appreciate the leaps and bounds taken by Marvel and DC Comics over the last few years in the film world.

Developed through a sense of actually-decent film making in the Spiderman and X-Men series–at least in comparison to the large budget, non-thought out style of the last few decades–the two comic book titans have started to boast their4 abilities to fund better movies, and it’s most obvious in the choice of actors.

Alongside a couple serious movies, an Aronofsky film being one of them, Natalie Portman has signed on to do Thor, which is set for release in 2011. Granted, she got her start in the Star Wars series, but she has developed into a respected actress, and can bring a larger audience to the movie.

The same was true with Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk, Tobey Maguire in Spiderman only three years after The Cider House Rules, one of Robert Downy Jr.’s big return movies in Iron Man.

Also noteworthy, former Van Wilder Ryan Reynolds will be Green Lantern. He’s married to Scarlett Johansson, so that makes him respectable, I guess, if only for the sheer fact that any guy would appreciate that.

The real idea here, though, is not just in the better quality of the actors. That’s not entirely new–remember Jack Nicholson as the Joker? More than that, it’s testament to the developing genre that is actually producing some good movies. It’s one that has big plans, too, with Captain America, Green Lantern, Thor, and The Avengers all announced in the last year.

Of course, The Dark Knight can’t escape being categorized into this. It’s DC’s baby over the last few years and damn near took Titanic’s title. I remember. I saw it seven times in theaters.

While none have quite reached the same level as Chris Nolan’s brainchild, which made it as far as winning two Oscars and nominated for another six, it still begs attention, this new genre. It’s used the success of some of the earlier, halfway decent movies, to build a future that film lovers and comic nerds alike hope to see produce some good work

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Roland Emmerich makes the same movie.. again.

Watching the tralier for the new movie from the director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between, well, all of these movies. The concept of humans trying to live through the end of time, and fighting against fate and all that. And top it off with some great big explosions, a little bit of a love story, some suspense, and it’s all there.

You can tell just from watching the preview–John Cusack comes in off the bench to take the place of Dennis Quaid and you sub climate change for the Mayan calendar’s apocolyptic prediction (both of which are controversial social issues, obviously) and you have a brand new movie.

So, needless to say, I’m very excited to spend 8 dollars to watch the same thing I watched four or five years ago. Just pre-ordered my tickets, actually.

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Google and its online library

I’ve always been a fan of Google’s. The company has done an amazing job of predicting the online market and the progression of modern technology, well enough to see its stock remain one of the largest in recent years. It’s contested Apple and Intel to that same effect, paving the way for a brighter internet future.

Now it has Google Books to add to its list of ever-expanding uses. You can read entire books on its Web site. Not the three-page preview you get on Amazon, but the whole thing. In most cases, at least. Hugo’s Les Mis is “limited,” but it shows 738 pages anyway, so it’s basically just the abridged version.

Now it is coming under fire from the DOJ, but that’s to be expected. Anything that’s being transferred to digital and online resource is going through the copyright and antitrust debates.

What becomes difficult about it is the same problem that’s plagued media for the last decade or so: how do you make money from that? It’s obvious that this is a format that needs and wants to be embraced by society, but it is impossible to make a profit off of. People can take a PDF of the book and upload it to their Web site. Or they’ll settle for the 3/4 they can read online. More than anything, people who would actually take the time to read what’s available on Google Books wouldn’t buy the book, they’d just read it on the site.

Just like with news print, with movies, music, and–yes–even with television, no answer has presented itself as to how to make a profit. The larger demand for large amounts of convenient media has destroyed its business model, and Google Books is just the latest example.

Of course companies are filing suits with the DOJ. They lose money. But it wouldn’t do the media that much good to see something like Google Books go under at the decision of a court. It just means that the economics need to be rethought.

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Jackson’s Farewell

The death of a celebrity is always a tough time. It brings people out in full force, ready to offer condolences to each other and show support for the family, or whoever’s left. It brings people together, as they gather on the street outside the hospital, or at that person’s Hollywood star.

I would like to start by saying that Michael Jackson’s death is a tragedy. Every death is.

But Farrah Fawcett also died yesterday. And according to the AV Club website, the guitarist and lead singer of the Seeds died. The US Census Bureau reports that 1.8 people die every second. 155,131 every day.

What strikes me is any news website today will be dominated by the death of Michael Jackson. For good reason, surely, but there is a degree when it becomes too much. The New York Times has suspended it’s other headlines for a Michael Jackson tribute page right up front. It’s the same with every major news website–CNN, Washington Post, LA Times, even foreign newspapers. (In a bold move, too, the Times of India’s headline reads “Michael Jackson lived like king, died in debt”).

So, when it all comes down to it, is there a difference in the media between an entertainer and people who have done really important, world-changing things? The kind of coverage Jane Goodall’s death will get, or Stephen Hawking’s, or Nelson Mandela’s could only hope to be as much as Jackson’s.

It’s a question of values. To run the article with many supplements and slideshows and videos, putting aside perhaps more important stories, seems like too much.

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YouTube and the digital TV age

Hulu has dominated the internet television and movie industry ever since it began, offering a legitimate home for shows that couldn’t be shut down by copyright laws. It was great. It meant late nights would be complete, with an episode of Arrested Development to go along with the Cheerios when you need a break from writing a paper.

Hulu’s expanded immensely since it started, too, with it’s alien-themed ads featuring Alec Baldwin and other actors from their most successful shows. It’s started showing movies, too, adding to the awesomeness that is free media.

Now YouTube, a Google company, is attempting to play off that by featuring shows and movies on its website.

It seems surprising that it wasn’t there that the whole trend started, though, as a part of Google and an influential company in its own right, and now it’s second to the plate. I have always been impressed with both the search engine’s and the video website’s abilities to foresee media trends and to capitalize on that, but YouTube might have missed the ball on this one. It’s shows are not quite up to par with Hulu’s. Neither are it’s movies. It’s going to take some serious work on their part to correctly advertise it.

And of course, YouTube is in theory a website about the average viewer posting their own material. Anything copyrighted has had to be removed, for the most part, and the major focus is on public work.

That being said, it remains to question to see if Google and its partner can compete with Hulu and actually get some traffic to that, but first it will need to sign on some key shows to sweeten the deal. Great things come in pairs, after all. Sunny and Cher. Paul and John. Transformers and Transformers 2.

We’ll see if this will play out well, and if YouTube can keep its status as the progressive media company, or if it will fall behind quicker mediums.

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Um, Thanks, Hollywood…?

It’s not too often that an opinions section will have an editorial or contributor that writes only to commend something–I’m pretty sure Morgan has made that point before–but I think that it is well deserved in this case.

In my blog entry about the Where the Wild Things Are movie, I totally failed to mention, or focus on if I did mention it, the fact that Dave Eggers wrote it. The champion of McSweeny’s and Wholphin, along with being the author of a few incredibly successful novels, Eggers and his wife (who is also a notable author) are trying their luck in Hollywood. Or, rather, Hollywood is trying it’s luck on them.

Either way, the important thing is that Away We Go opened up. And this isn’t a review–I didn’t see it. But it is worth pause to consider the film/ movie industry’s rapid change in pace this last decade. It has moved from cheesy, lame action movies with flops like Rush Hour being big name movies, and becoming an industry that pumps out a pretty seriously thought-provoking, incredibly well made rendition of Batman. 

After I read a somewhat old interview on the AV Club’s website, it occurred to me again how this trend is starting to really set in. Not even just the directors are realizing that quality is what is most important, but the film world is taking an important step in combatting the average, cheap and ephemeral Hollywood flop.

Check out the interview when you get a chance and you’ll get what I’m saying.

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