Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Increasing Value of Online Writing

Pundits keep talking about "the death of blogging," and social media has no doubt changed the blogosphere from what it was, but whatever it's called and however it will continue to evolve, there is no denying that online writing continues to grow in value. The latest news that the venerable New York Times has changed its movie review policy earlier this year, no longer guaranteeing coverage for every motion picture released theatrically in New York, sent a few shock waves through the independent film circles, who depend on such reviews for visibility and eligibility for award nominations. Popular blogs and Web sites will now be more valuable than ever as new media channels with loyal followings and high search engine rankings become sought out as part of filmmakers shifting publicity strategies.

As more and more people are using smart devices and mobile gadgets to communicate and to consume news items, writing for online media is a skill that is much in demand now and in the future. As a matter of fact, many of my students have used the blogs and other online writing assignments in my class as part of their portfolios to show prospective employers after graduation, and a number of them have landed impressive jobs with major companies embracing the online marketplace thanks to the online content they've created.

It's not just a matter of dollars and cents, it's a fundamental shift in social practices. Traditional media are still relevant, but online content has become a legitimate force as bloggers and other "influencers" earn respectability, drawing those much sought-after "eyeballs."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Celebrity Retirements

When famous people retire, it's not sufficient to just ride off into the sunset. The new trend is to announce the retirement months in advance, building up the hype for that final professional appearance.  I hope I don't sound ungrateful for the legacy of David Letterman, whose farewell inspired me to write this -- his impact on late night talk shows is second to none (except maybe Johnny Carson, who also had a high profile departure from TV when he stepped down from The Tonight Show.)  When Jack Paar called it quits, it was abrupt and surprising. Now the announcement is made and ratings climb as famous guests come and say their goodbyes and enough time is given for a proper emotional "Farewell."

We've seen it with other talk show hosts (Stephen Colbert and now Jon Stewart) and with sports figures, like the Yankees Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Some have announced their retirements, like bestselling author Stephen King, but decided to stick around a while longer.

WFAN radio host Mike Francesa announced yesterday that he's determined the exact date when he will retire, but isn't letting anyone know yet...but it will be sooner than people think.  (His contract expires in 2017, so does that mean he might leave before then, or not sign a new contract, or maybe sign a short one-or-two-year contract before ending his illustrious career?) I hope this isn't the start of a newer trend -- teasing the announcement of the beginning of the retirement tour!

Then there are others who officially retire, say their adieus, do their retirement tours, accept the tearful "bye-byes" of their colleagues and fans, enjoy their moment in the spotlight with a commemorative TV special recapping all of their decades-long achievements -- and then keep working anyway, refusing to go away.  I'm looking at you, Barbara Walters!

All kidding aside, when celebrities have paid their dues and racked up a string of incredible memories, they deserve to bask in the sun and take their time saying "So long."  Let's hope each one does it his or her own way in truly spectacular and memorable fashion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Movie and TV Trailer Roundup - May 2015

It's time to look at this month's movie and television trailers, and we have a bunch of them, so let's go.

Absolutely Anything
Simon Pegg plays an ordinary man suddenly granted the extraordinary power by aliens to do anything.

Area 51
Shot in the "found footage" style, a group of friends decide to break into the mythic top secret government base.

Forget the zombie apocalypse, here's something even worse -- an epidemic that turns fourth graders into monsters.

Crimson Peak
Director Guillermo Del Toro brings us an old-fashioned haunted house ghost story as only he can.

Jem and the Holograms
They're adapting everything. This was apparently inspired by the 1980s cartoon of the same name, but it seems only loosely based on that concept.

The Last Witch Hunter
Vin Diesel and Michael Caine star in this action horror fantasy.

Not to be confused with the 1980s Tom Cruise fantasy, this is a period piece based on a true story with Tom Hardy playing the dual role of the Kray twins.

The Little Prince
This CGI version of the classic tale features some clever animation.

Fans of those adorable little yellow creatures from the Despicable Me movies will be thrilled to see this prequel that explains their origin.

Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellan plays the most famous detective of all time in his twilight years.

The Muppets
Jim Henson's greatest creations return to television this fall, and here's a quick look at what to expect.

Hugh Jackman plays Blackbeard in this prequel origin tale for Peter Pan.

Return to Sender
Rosamund Pike stars in this twisted thriller.

Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Streep plays an aging rock singer who returns home when her daughter faces a crisis.

San Andreas
It's your typical mega-earthquake disaster flick.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
The adaptation of the bestselling book series continues with this sequel.

Sense 8
From the makers of The Matrix and J. Michael Straczynski comes this fascinating original Netflix series.

Soaked in Bleach
Here's an intriguing documentary about the death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

Steve Jobs
Forget that version with Ashton Kutcher, this biopic starring Michael Fassbender seems like the definitive one to watch.

I know i's receiving some negative backlash, but this looks like harmless fun.

True Detective (Season 2)
Will it be as good as the first season?

Ben Kingsley joins the cast of Spike TV's retelling of the story of the young Egyptian pharaoh.

This looks more like a reboot than a sequel, but maybe it will capture some of the fun of the original.

Which ones are you most excited to see?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More of the Best Cars in Pop Culture

Be careful what you wish for, faithful readers, because I might go overboard in delivering. My post in early April about "The Best Cars in Popular Culture" received a positive response, but one critique was that I left too many cars out.  (I did mention some of the top cars in entertainment -- the Batmobile, the General Lee, etc.)  Many of you were kind enough to remind me of your favorites that I omitted, so here is an expanded Part Two, covering a bunch of iconic cars from movies, television, and videogames.  I'm only counting cars, not planes or boats or motorcycles, and my definition of cars is a vehicle with wheels, so I didn't include the landspeeder from Star Wars or the flying car from The Jetsons.  Go and read Part One and then here's the continuation of my list.

American Graffiti's Ford Coupe

Angel's Plymouth GTX Convertible

Animal House's Lincoln Continental "Deathmobile"


The Big Lebowski's Ford Gran Torino

The Boatmobile from Spongebob Squarepants

Breaking Bad's Crystal Ship

Bullitt's Mustang

The Bus from Speed

Cannonball Run's Ferrari

Cannonball Run's Lamborghini

Cannonball Run's Suburu

The Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino

Crockett's Ferrari from Miami Vice

Due Date's Subaru Impreza

Dumb and Dumber's Mutt Cutts Ford Ecoline

The Firebird from The Rockford Files

Fire Rescue 1 from The Little Rascals

The foot-powered vehicle from The Flintstones

The Ford Thunderbird from Thelma and Louise

Gone in 60 Seconds

Good Burger's ACM Pacer

The Green Hornet's Black Beauty

Halo's Warthog

The Hangover's Mercedes 220SE Convertible

Hardcastle & McCormack's Volkswagen Coyote X

The Interceptor from Mad Max

James Bond's Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me

Jurassic Park's Ford Explorer XLT

Kill Bill's P*ssy Wagon

Lightning McQueen from Pixar's Cars

Little Miss Sunshine's Volkswagen Type 2 Minibus

Lost's Volkswagen T2a

The Magic School Bus

Magnum P.I.'s Ferrari

Mario's Go-Kart

The Mercury Club Coupe from Rebel Without a Cause

The Mini Coopers from The Italian Job

Minority Report's future Lexus

The Mirth Mobile from Wayne's World

The Monkee Mobile from The Monkees

The Munster Koach from The Munsters

My Mother the Car

National Lampoon's Vacation's Ferrari

The Oldsmobile Rio Truck from The Beverly Hillbillies

The Party Wagon from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Saab 900 from Sideways

Sanford and Son's Ford F1 4x2

The Shaguar from Austin Powers

Shaun of the Dead's Jaguar XJ12 Series III

Smokey and the Bandit's Trans Am

Supernatural's Chevy Impala

Sweet Tooth's Ice Cream Truck from the video game Twisted Metal

The Thunder Tank from Thundercats

Tommy Boy's Plymouth Belvedere GTX

Tony Stark's Acura NSX from Marvel's The Avengers

The Toyota Mark IV Supra RZ from The Fast and the Furious

Vanishing Point's Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum

The Wonder Bread race car from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

The Wraith

I'm sure I've still left a few good ones out, so let me know which ones and I might write a Part Three.