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Thanks Goodness: No 3D for Harry Potter 7 October 12, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Technology.
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Finally, a bit of sense and decency.

Warner Brothers has announced that the first part of Harry Potter 7 will no longer be released in 3D because they could not prepare the effects in time for release in November.  Let’s commend them for pulling the plug rather than tricking naive audiences to fork out exorbitant charges to watch a crappy 3D version of the film.

I have been pretty vocal in my disapproval of this current 3D craze at our cinemas at the moment.  So far, only two films of the many I have seen in 3D have actually added a net positive to the movie experience — Avatar and Final Destination 3D (the film was still crap but the entire film was centred around this gimmick).  Everything else, from Clash of the Titans to Alice in Wonderland to Piranha 3D, has been awful and nothing more than a waste of viewers’ hard earned money.

Jeff Katzenberg from Dreamworks said it best about the 3D phenomenon when it came to Clash of the Titans:

You cannot do anything that is of a lower grade and a lower quality than what has just been done on Clash of the Titans. It literally is ‘OK, congratulations! You just snookered the movie audience.  The act of doing it was disingenuous. We may get away with it a few times but in the long run, (filmgoers) will wake up. And the day they wake up is the day they walk away from us and we blew it.

And yet, we keep falling for the scam because we continue to believe that 3D somehow makes a movie better.  When I first heard about HP7 in 3D I wasn’t totally against it because I thought it might be cool to see magic, flying and Quidditch in 3D (do they even have Quidditch in the final book?).  But now, I’ve finally come to my senses.  No more 3D unless everyone starts to claim that it is a must.

The frightening thing is that there appears to be no end to 3D mania.  We’ve got Saw CLXIV (or whatever it is) coming out shortly.  George Lucas continues to milk what’s left of the Star Wars udder by bringing out 3D versions of the old films next year.  Not to be outdone in the ‘can’t let go’ department, James Cameron is apparently re-releasing Titanic in 3D too in the dickiest move since announcing that he is ‘The King of the World’ at the Oscars.  And when The Hobbit is finally made, you can be pretty certain that there will be a 3D version of that too.

Dammit!  Argh!

Maybe I was wrong about e-books August 15, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, Technology.
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Admittedly, I have not been the biggest e-book supporter out there.  I like the look, feel and smell of a real book, made out of paper, in my hands.  I’m not crazy about the idea of purchasing “intangible books” from the Internet because I feel like I should get getting stuff like that for free!

Having said that, I am starting to see a lot more people out there with Kindles and in particular i-Pads on the streets, reading e-books.  I tried it out a couple of times myself at some electronic stores.  And no, it’s not the same — but maybe someday I could get used to it.

A friend of mine recently alerted me to a couple of articles which indicate that e-books are on the rise.  First, this depressing article from Crikey about how two of Australia’s biggest book retailers, Borders and Angus & Robertson, are struggling to stay afloat.  Book orderings are now made very cautiously, and in very small quantities.  If you thought it was hard to get on shelves before, it’s now harder than ever.

Secondly, this article by Michael Wolf entitled “How e-Books Won the War”.  I wouldn’t exactly go that far myself (there’s still some life in the old hardcopy I reckon), but things are starting to look up for e-books and down for traditional books.  Stieg Larsson has become the first million e-book author, and Kindle prices are set to drop below $100, possibly as early as Christmas.  Barnes & Noble, the massive US book retailer, is in strife as well.

Have I been wrong about e-books?  Are they really going to take over the world, and at a quicker pace than any of us could have anticipated?

Observations at the movies August 15, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Entertainment, Movie Reviews, Technology.
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I went to see The Expendables yesterday (review below) at Hoyts, which has this new concept called Xtremescreen — I suppose created as a challenge to Event Cinemas’ (formerly Greater Union’s) VMax.  It’s all a bit of a scam really.  Supposedly bigger screens, more comfy seats and better sound — things that audiences should get for free anyway, but instead they have to fork out a premium for them.

The good thing for Xtremescreen, at least, is that using cheap-ass movie money, we didn’t have to pay an extra cent (though on the Hoyts website it says you need to pay a $1.50 surcharge).  The screen was no bigger than it used to be, but the sound was louder and the leather seats were not too bad (at least easier to clean).

Anyway, when we were about to get our tickets ripped, this couple went up to the teenage attendant and asked what movie, out of everything that was showing, he recommended.

I could have bet my house (if I owned one) that the kid would say Inception, but instead he said Step Up 3D!

Okay, fine, he likes dancing, but the couple were two morbidly obese, unkempt people dressed in stained grey sweaters and track pants.  Somehow I don’t think they were big dance fans.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the coming attractions.  I want to know what’s coming out but I don’t want to find out too much or learn the entire plot in advance.  And you know they love to put in all the best bits in there.

Yesterday we got the trailer for Dinner for Schmucks (Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell), The Other Guys (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) and Piranha 3D.

I’m a big fan of Rudd, but Dinner for Schmucks looks pretty awful.  Very hit and miss, and judging from the trailer, more misses than hits.  The Other Guys looks more promising, with potentially more hits and misses.  Of course, it could be just the quality of the respective trailers.

As for Piranha 3D, I wouldn’t even know where to begin!  What an obvious rip-off of the classic film Frankenfish! (Just kidding, I’ve never seen Frankenfish but I always thought it was a cool name for a movie).  Anyway, it’s a Jaws homage with a bunch of really badly animated piranhas.  And to top things off, it’s in 3D, which I am totally over.  I’m sick of having to fork out the price of a small meal for a pair of really uncomfortable glasses and with a good chance that the 3D effects really suck and don’t add anything to the movie experience.  Bring back 2D, I say.

Why the heck is Apple so popular? May 28, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Social/Political Commentary, Technology.
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The Apple iPad was launched in Australia today

Today marked the official launch of Apple’s new iPad in Australia.

As with just about anything released by Apple these days, people camped outside all night in the cold and rain just so they could be among the first in the country to purchase one of these babies.  The frenzy was slightly more subdued than when Apple released the iPhone, but it was still a very solid crowd.

Most admitted they didn’t know a whole lot about the product, which has been shrouded in Apple’s trademark mystery for many months.  Some others even said that they didn’t even know if they wanted one, but they just wanted to get it for the sake of it.

Seriously, what is going on here?  It’s not like Apple is giving away these things for free.  Apparently, an iPad ranges from AU$629 (for a 16GB Wi-Fi model) to AU$1049 (for a 64GB 3G + Wi-Fi model).  And there’s nothing astroundingly revolutionary about it either.  Both tablet computers and touch screens have been around for years.  Further, critics have pointed out the lack of an in-built camera and USB port.  The reviews have been varied, but the general consensus is that the iPad is essentially a bigger version of the iPhone.

Nevertheless, the iPad has once again become the latest “must have” product from the Apple.  It seems whenever Apple releases anything, no matter what it is and regardless of the merits of the product, it is always guaranteed to sell and sell big.  The iPad has been selling extraordinarily well around the world and in Australia, pre-sale orders have been mind-boggling.  There is even expected to be a shortage in stock for the first few weeks at least.

How has Apple managed to do this?  Are their products really that innovative and far ahead of the rest of the pack?  Or is it the clever marketing campaigns designed to make Apple products look ‘cool’?  Or is it a combination of these and many other factors?  Whatever it is, Apple has somehow made the iPod, iPhone and shortly almost certainly the iPad, the most ubiquitous personal devices in the developed world — possibly ever.

The iPhone

I still remember a time, many years ago, when the Apple brand almost had the opposite effect on people.  Everyone had PCs and Macs were considered ‘pretty’ computers for unsophisticated users.  Then, something happened.  I started seeing those ‘silhouette man’ iPod commercials on TV and on the side of buses.  Then there were those ads with Justin Long.  Before long, iPods were everywhere.  Everyone in the city had an iPhone.  Getting iMacs and MacBooks suddenly became the ‘in’ thing to do.  Now when I go to a cafe, most people I see have iMacs.  The lecturers in my writing course (and most students, might I add) all have MacBooks and one even said to us, “I’m a writer, of course I use a Mac!”

I don’t believe promotion alone can elevate a brand to where Apple is now.  There has to be merit in their products.  But what I don’t get is why Apple has become such a crazy phenomenon world-wide.  It’s not like competitors have not come out with similar products which either have stronger specs and/or have cheaper prices.  But none have been able to make any significant dent in Apple’s market share.  It’s almost as though consumers are hypnotised by the stylish exterior of Apple’s devices and have shut their minds to alternative products.  Can you think of another electronic device brand (or any brand, for that matter) that would have people lining up outside for 24 hours or more, just so they could be one of the first people to buy a new product?

I only have two Apple products — an 80GB Video iPod and an 8GB iPod Touch — both gifts from a former employer.  Everyone in the workplace got one, which just shows how popular — or at least how popular my employer thought — these products had become.

I don’t have anything against Apple or their products, other than the annoying fact that everything has to be synched to the extremely frustrating iTunes.  That alone was enough to make me look for cheaper and more user-friendly alternatives.

There have been numerous articles that touch on the Apple ‘phenomenon’ (I do have some reservations with this term because Apple is apparently bringing out a next gen compositing application by that name), but I haven’t found any serious pieces that have provided a comprehensive examination into just what it is that makes Apple products so popular.  I’m sure someone, somewhere, has written a thesis or dissertation on this topic — if you know where to find such a thing, please feel free to point me in the right direction.

Is it worth paying extra for 3D? April 5, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Technology.
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One thing that’s really been annoying me lately is the extra price movie-goers have to pay to enjoy a film in 3D.  Where I’m from, there’s the “normal” price of the ticket, and on top of that there is the arbitrary price for the 3D, and then there’s the additional cost of the 3D glasses.  Some theatres allow 3D glasses to be reused, but others require you to purchase a new pair each time.  When you add it all up, the movies are getting ridiculously expensive these days.

Now if it is a genuine 3D film, like say Avatar (or even The Final Destination), where the experience is truly enhanced because of the 3D effects, I don’t have a huge problem with that.  You pay for it with extra cash and discomfort from wearing the glasses for the entire duration of the film, but it’s ultimately worth the trouble.

But the last two “3D” films I watched, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, both felt like they were riding the 3D tidal wave for a bit of extra box office income.  I was appalled by how little the so-called 3D effects added to the films.  Arguably, I would have enjoyed them more had I watched in ordinary 2D, without the irritating glasses frames, the darker tint of the lenses, and me taking taking them off constantly wondering whether I had accidentally walked into the 2D version.

So from now on, I’m going to be a 3D sceptic.  No more watching films in 3D if those effects have been added in post-production in order to ride the 3D bandwagon — unless, of course, someone tells me I’d be missing out on something amazing.

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