Sunday, November 22, 2015

Note to Yahoo: Keep your eye on the ball

I use Yahoo every day for two things: Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance. So it disturbs me when those services are glitchy.
I worry that Yahoo has become distracted with finding new growth areas and is letting its crown jewels wither. This year, Yahoo has been promoting costly ventures like live-streaming an NFL football game and producing a new season of the comedy series “Community.” Neither were successful.
The headlines lately have been worrisome for Yahoo and its management. (“Yahoo ‘Bleeding Purple,’ Little Relief Seen: Analyst” and “The Last Days Of Marissa Mayer?”)
Yahoo needs to preserve core services that people rely on daily like Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance and MyYahoo or users will seek alternatives.
Also, with its desperate focus on serving mobile devices, Yahoo should not ignore its strength among desktop users.
Companies that chase the latest shiny thing often take for granted their legacy operations. I hope that doesn’t happen to Yahoo. But some annoying glitches with Yahoo Finance (stock pages can take forever to load) and Yahoo Mail (occasionally inaccessible), I think it’s lost focus.

Photos: Recent screenshots of Yahoo fails, including a Yahoo Finance error message (top) from Nov. 11. Below are Yahoo Mail errors from September and April.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Will the U.S. remake of ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ defy the odds and be good?

On Friday, the mystery-thriller “Secret in Their Eyes” opens in U.S. theaters. On paper, the film looks like a winner.
It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts and was directed by Billy Ray, who previously helmed “Breach” (2007) and “Shattered Glass” (2003). It’s a U.S. remake of the terrific Argentine crime thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes” (2009), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards in 2010.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has a poor track record when it comes to remaking acclaimed foreign films. Most of the time such remakes are unnecessary. Often times, their tone or style is wrong, as if the stories literally did not translate well.
“The Secret in Their Eyes,” aka “El secreto de sus ojos,” was excellent. Why mess with it?
Now just three days before its release, I get the sense that the remake is no good. Not only is it lacking buzz, there are no early reviews. Other films opening Friday have been thoroughly reviewed. But those films, “Carol,” “Legend” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” have been critically acclaimed, so the studios likely were eager to screen them.

Update (Nov. 21, 2015):  “The Secret in Their Eyes” mustered just 42% positive reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

In November 2009, I wrote about how I was dreading the U.S. remake of the Swedish vampire thriller “Let the Right One In” (2008). I had reason to be concerned. The American remake, “Let Me In” (2010), was not good.
I followed up with two more posts on the subject of U.S. remakes of foreign films. (“U.S. remakes of foreign films a mixed bag” and “Some U.S. remakes, like ‘The Ring’, are just as good as the foreign originals.”)
Since then, other bad U.S. remakes of foreign films have premiered. Most notably they included “Dinner for Schmucks” (2010), “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011) and “Oldboy” (2013).
Such crimes against cinema are likely to continue. Among the movies Hollywood studios have announced plans to redo are the French action film “Sleepless Night” (2010), German crime thriller “Who Am I?” (2014) and Indonesian action movie “The Raid” (2011).
I just started two movie lists on IMDb: “Good U.S. remakes of foreign films” and “Terrible U.S. remakes of good foreign films.”
Let me know if I’m missing any good examples.

Photos: Movie posters for “Secret in Their Eyes” (2015) and “The Secret in Their Eyes” (2009).

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Upcoming TV shows with the most promise: ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones,’ ‘Colony’

The mediocre slate of new broadcast television shows has me looking forward to midseason replacements.
TV networks often save their most risky and daring new shows for midseason or summer release. Even my favorite show from last year, “The 100” on the CW, is being saved for a midseason return in early 2016.
Other favorites of mine due to return in early 2016 include “Marvel’s Agent Carter” on ABC and “12 Monkeys” on Syfy.
Of the shows that are soon to premiere, I’m most interested in “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” on Netflix, “Colony” on USA, “Containment” on the CW, and “The X-Files” reboot on Fox.
Other shows could have potential, but I’ll need to read reviews or see new trailers to get a better feel for them. They include “Lucifer” on Fox, “The Expanse” on Syfy and “Shades of Blue” on NBC.
Most of those shows are science-fiction, comic-book and horror shows. That’s because genre shows are more interesting to me than standard lawyer or cop shows. I like to be surprised.

Photos: Promotional art for “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” and “The X-Files.”

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall TV season update: ‘iZombie’ shines, new shows fail to impress

Once again, the broadcast networks have delivered an uninspired lineup of new TV shows for the fall season.
I gave four new shows a try this fall after conducting due diligence.
This year’s one-and-done show for me was “Quantico.” The pilot episode was terrible and I couldn’t proceed. It was just too stupid for me to enjoy. And while series lead Priyanka Chopra is beautiful, she is unconvincing as an FBI agent.
“The Muppets” is OK, but needs to be edgier and funnier. After five episodes, I’m not committed to watching any more.
“Blindspot” puts the b in dumb, as I like to say, but it’s fairly entertaining. The acting is sub-par, but there is enough interesting plotting and good action to keep me watching for now. But I probably wouldn’t miss it if I quit.
And finally I gave “Heroes Reborn” a shot. It’s pretty good as a limited-run series. But I doubt I’d keep watching if it gets renewed.
That leaves me with returning shows on my watch list. They are “iZombie,” “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” “Supernatural” and “The Walking Dead.” (I quit watching “Z Nation,” which got tedious.)
Of those returning shows, the standout is “iZombie,” now in its second season on the CW. It’s a dynamite comic book show about a medical examiner who helps solve murders while investigating the tainted drug that turned her and others into brain-eating undead.
“iZombie” is consistently the funniest show on TV. Actress Rose McIver deserves Emmy consideration for her performance as M.E. Olivia “Liv” Moore.
To sustain herself, Moore must eat human brains, but when she does so she takes on the personality of those she consumes. This creates a lot of comic possibilities as Moore eats the brains of a college frat boy, a materialistic socialite, gung-ho basketball coach and others.
Trust me, it’s a hoot.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

‘Amy,’ other music documentaries in contention for Oscar

In July, I wrote that music documentaries are having a renaissance.
“Amy,” the documentary about late singer Amy Winehouse, is the frontrunner for an Academy Award for best documentary at the 2016 ceremony, according to Variety, Indiewire and AwardsCirc.
Other music-themed documentaries are listed as contenders for an Oscar nomination this year as well. They include “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “Miss Sharon Jones!,” “Janis: Little Girl Blue” and “All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records.”
In two of the past three years, the Oscar for best documentary has gone to a music-themed film. Those recent winners include “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012) and “20 Feet from Stardom” (2013).
Meanwhile, other music documentaries are popping up.
On Sept. 18, Netflix debuted “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” a documentary about the Rolling Stones guitarist.
On Sept. 23, “Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes” was released in theaters. The documentary covers the making of Arcade Fire’s album “Reflektor.”
Also last month, Showtime premiered “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church,” a documentary with previously unseen footage of his seminal performance at the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival. It’s due out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Nov. 6.
Oct. 16 saw the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Rage Against the Machine: Live at Finsbury Park.” It includes the rock band’s famed June 2010 concert in London’s Finsbury Park and a behind-the-scenes documentary.
On Nov. 7, HBO is set to premiere a documentary about Irish rock band U2 and its recent Innocence + Experience Tour.
One highly anticipated music documentary is being withheld from release because of lawsuits.
Aretha Franklin has blocked the release of “Amazing Grace,” a documentary about the Queen of Soul and her album of the same name. It was directed by Sydney Pollack and is heavily comprised of footage from a legendary 1972 concert in Los Angeles.
But wait, there’s more.
Pop-punk band Green Day has announced a documentary, “Heart Like A Hand Grenade,” that chronicles the recording of its classic album “American Idiot.”
Pop singer Katy Perry’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX is the subject of an upcoming documentary called “Katy Perry: Making of the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show.”
Singer Justin Timberlake is working with director Jonathan Demme on film that captured the final date of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour.

Related reading:

The best-reviewed music documentaries of all time (July 12, 2015)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

‘Steve Jobs’ one of just a few movies based on tech industry true stories

“Steve Jobs,” the new biopic about the Apple co-founder and CEO, went into wide release at theaters nationwide on Friday. It has earned mostly positive reviews from film critics, but Silicon Valley insiders have slammed the movie for factual inaccuracies.
Hollywood takes creative license when telling true stories to make movies more dramatic, emotional and engaging. What’s most important with a biopic is capturing the essence of the characters and providing the basic truths about the events portrayed.
Filmmakers are never going to please those who were closest to the subjects. Heck, they can’t even agree with documentaries on their subjects, which also can be slanted to tell a more interesting story.
Steve Jobs has been portrayed in three movies: “Pirates of Silicon Valley” (1999), “Jobs” (2013) and now “Steve Jobs.” But he’s been profiled in at least seven feature-length documentaries, most recently “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” (2015) from director Alex Gibney.
There have been very few movies based on tech industry true stories. I count just nine to date, with the most well-known being “The Social Network,” the 2010 movie about the founding of Facebook. (Check out my list of IT industry movies based on true stories at IMDb.)
Two more are on the way soon. They include “Snowden,” director Oliver Stone’s take on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and “The Salesman,” a look at IBM’s dealings with Nazi Germany.
By contrast, the information technology industry, including the rise of personal computers and the Internet, has been a rich source of material for documentaries. I count at least 53 feature-length documentaries on the IT industry and its impact. (Check out my list of documentaries about the IT industry at IMDb.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Post-apocalyptic television getting a refresh

The number of post-apocalyptic themed TV shows currently airing dipped to nine with the cancellation last week of Syfy’s “Defiance” and “Dominion.”
Syfy still has two PA-themed shows in production: “12 Monkeys” and “Z Nation.”
Hollywood is betting that America isn’t sick of post-apocalyptic set TV shows just yet.
FX is looking to bring the sci-fi comic book series “Y: The Last Man” to television. The series follows Yorick Brown, the last surviving man, and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand, after a mysterious plague kills every other man and boy on Earth.
FX also is working on an animated series called “Cassius and Clay,” which is described as an action-buddy-comedy centered on two women living as bandits in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic America.
In January, MTV is scheduled to debut “The Shannara Chronicles,” a TV show based on a series of fantasy novels set after a future holocaust.
I count another eight post-apocalyptic shows in other stages of production.

Photos: Comic book art from “Y: The Last Man” (top) and a still from “The Shannara Chronicles” showing the remains of the Seattle Space Needle. 

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