Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ownership of music, movies and software slipping away

First it was physical media that was threatened by the shift to digital, now it’s ownership of entertainment and software.
Consider the music business. For decades, physical ownership of music ruled, first with LPs and cassettes and then CDs. Then Apple changed the game when it launched the iTunes download store in April 2003.
Fast forward to today and iTunes sales are dropping as consumers switch to ad-supported and subscription streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify.
Why own the music when streaming is so convenient? You can access your favorite music from multiple devices without the hassle of finding your copy.
In the movie business, DVD sales are down as more consumers sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and other subscription streaming services.
Once again, with streaming, people don’t have to load their personal copy of a video into a consumer electronics device. They just search from a menu and hit play.
Another benefit of streaming video vs. DVD is not having to slog through all those trailers, ads, piracy warnings and menus you get before you can actually watch the video you want. With streaming, it starts when you hit play.
However, a drawback is the likely disappearance of special features like deleted scenes, movie documentaries and director commentaries.
Computer software also is shifting from buy-and-own to monthly subscriptions. Microsoft, Adobe Systems and other software companies now offer to rent PC software applications as opposed to buy-upfront licensed software. This is part of the shift to cloud computing.
Amazon.com even has a subscription electronic book service called Kindle Unlimited.
It all sounds like a good deal, but consumers might end up paying more for software and entertainment content this way.
Also, if you don’t own something, you have less control over it. Some of the content you like could just disappear when a service loses the rights to it.
Plus, you usually need an Internet connection to access your content.
As with all new things, there are tradeoffs.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Kim Kardashian magazine cover generates a buttload of jokes

Kim Kardashian’s naked photo on the cover of Paper magazine generated a lot of conversation, news articles and jokes.
It is likely to be the most talked-about magazine cover of 2014. And that was the plan.
The magazine’s editor said he wanted to “break the Internet” with the buzzworthy, bare-butt photo of the reality TV star. He didn’t do that, but he generated loads of free publicity.
What follows is a roundup of jokes from late-night comedians about the magazine cover.
“The editor of Paper said, ‘For our winter issue, we gave ourselves one assignment: Break the Internet.’ Well, it may not have broken the Internet, but it definitely put a crack in it.” - Jimmy Kimmel
“After a six-year battle, the Senate will vote to begin construction on the Keystone XL pipeline next week, which is an oil pipeline that runs from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Yeah, they’re hoping the pipe will provide enough oil to cover Kim Kardashian’s next photo shoot. (‘LOT of oil, It comes from somewhere.’)” - Jimmy Fallon
“Researchers at Google have developed image-recognition software that can accurately caption what’s happening in a photo. Although it still has some bugs, cuz it described Kim Kardashian’s recent photo as ‘Woman being chased by two butterball turkeys.’ I could see where they made that error.” - Jimmy Fallon
“This week China and the U.S. reached an historic agreement to cut carbon emissions, the leader of ISIS may have been killed in an airstrike, and a spacecraft landed on a comet 300 million miles away … but dat ass tho.” (Photo of Kim Kardashian) - Michael Che on Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update”
“The cover for the latest issue of Paper Magazine featuring the naked pictures of Kim Kardashian was viewed online by more than 16 million people. So thank you Kim. I can now find porn just Googling the word ‘Paper.”” - Michael Che
“The 2015 Obamacare open enrollment period began today and President Obama urged Americans to ‘spread the word’ and check their insurance options on HealthCare.gov. Except they can’t because someone broke the Internet. Okay, I promise. That was the last one.” - Colin Jost on Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update”
“Some people are saying that Kim Kardashian’s nude photo is actually a positive feminist statement. Those people are called ‘husbands caught looking at it.’” - Conan O'Brien
“The European Space Agency successfully landed a probe on a comet that was moving 41,000 miles per hour. Meanwhile, here in America, we successfully landed a champagne glass on Kim Kardashian’s ass.” - Conan O'Brien
“Three astronauts returned to Earth after spending 165 days aboard the International Space Station. They said there were three things they could see from space – the Great Wall of China, the Amazon Rainforest, and that photo of Kim Kardashian’s naked butt.” - Conan O'Brien
A parody Twitter account written from the perspective of Kim’s daughter, North West, featured a couple of choice tweets about the cover. One showed how Kim wants to be a “cool mom” and another features animation of Kim’s ballooning buttocks.
Us Magazine did a roundup of funny tweets about the Paper cover, which became an Internet meme.
Ikea poked fun at the cover by advertising a wide swivel armchair it said would be perfect for big-booty Kim.

Photos: Jimmy Kimmel joke from Huffington Post (top); the Kim Kardashian cover of Paper (bottom, pun intended).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

LinkedIn thinks I’d make a good wedding videographer

Two years ago, LinkedIn suggested that I quit the journalism profession and become a home loan officer for Wells Fargo.
Just last week, LinkedIn said I should consider becoming a wedding videographer.
Perhaps someone there has seen the awesome videos I took of my son hitting home runs in Little League baseball.
Like lots of folks, I get occasional emails from LinkedIn highlighting job openings that match my work experience. While most of the jobs in the most recent email were writing and editing positions, the top one was not.
Leading the list of “Jobs you may be interested in” was an opening for a wedding videographer in the Baltimore, Md., area.
Thanks, but no.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

16 notable movies never released on DVD in the U.S.

Just as there are interesting TV shows that have never been released on DVD, the same goes for movies.
What follows is a list of interesting and noteworthy movies that have never gotten the DVD treatment in the U.S.
Other people have put together similar lists, but they usually include a lot of obscure titles from the silent and early sound eras of film or foreign-language movies. Other lists include low-budget horror movies or independent films.
A lot of movies that previously had been unavailable on DVD have been released through the Amazon.com “Never Before on DVD” store, which opened in May 2012.
I purchased several long-time DVD holdouts through this website including “Who’s Minding the Mint?” (1967), “Resurrection” (1980) and “Made In Heaven” (1987).
Here’s my current list of rare movies never released on DVD in the U.S.:

Song of the South (1946)

Walt Disney’s live-action/animated musical “Song of the South” is considered off limits for home video release because of its controversial depictions of black former slaves and race relations in Reconstruction-Era Georgia.
The movie is based on a collection of African American folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris in 1880. The central character is Uncle Remus, who speaks in Harris’ version of a Deep South slave dialect. Some have described the movie as racist.
In the film’s best known scene, Uncle Remus and animated animals sing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song. The movie also inspired the Disney theme park attraction Splash Mountain.
The film got official releases on laserdisc and videocassette in Europe, Japan and Latin America. But not on DVD and no home video format in the U.S.
(See articles by BuzzFeed and Wikipedia.)

J.T. (1969)

“J.T.” is a made-for-TV movie about a troubled inner-city youngster who adopts a stray cat for Christmas, and must hide it from his financially strapped mother.
The tearjerker was produced for a Saturday morning children’s anthology on CBS, but got such rave reviews that the network aired it in prime time a week later.
“J.T.” also won the prestigious Peabody Award.
(See articles on IMDb, Christmas TV History, Sound on Sight and the Examiner.)

Let It Be (1970)

“Let It Be” is a documentary film about the Beatles rehearsing and recording songs for what would be their final original album. The film features an unannounced rooftop concert by the group, their last performance in public.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr collectively won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for the film. The soundtrack also won a Grammy for Best Original Score.
McCartney and Starr blocked the release of the film on DVD because it presents the Beatles in a negative light, Wikipedia said.
The Daily Express reported in July 2008 that McCartney and Starr were worried about the film’s possible effect on the band’s “global brand ... if the public sees the darker side of the story,” an anonymous source told the paper. “Neither Paul nor Ringo would feel comfortable publicizing a film showing The Beatles getting on each other’s nerves ... There’s all sorts of extra footage showing more squabbles but it’s unlikely it will ever see the light of day in Paul and Ringo’s lifetime.”
The documentary “shows, in often-painful detail, just how much John, Paul, George, and Ringo did not like being in the same room together by the end of the band’s career,” the A.V. Club wrote.

Willard (1971)

“Willard” is a horror film starring Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine. It’s about a social misfit who trains rats to attack those who have tormented him. The supporting cast included Elsa Lanchester in one of her last performances, and Sondra Locke in one of her first.
It opened to good reviews and high box office returns, according to Wikipedia. It even spawned a sequel, “Ben.”

Ben (1972)

“Ben” is the sequel to the killer-rat horror film “Willard.” The theme song, “Ben”, is performed by pop singer Michael Jackson.
(See articles on Wikipedia and Internet Movie Database.)

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

“The Reincarnation of Peter Proud” is a supernatural drama about a college professor who begins to experience flashbacks from a previous life. His investigation into those visions leads him to his wife and daughter from the past life. The film stars Michael Sarrazin, Jennifer O'Neill and Margot Kidder.
David Fincher, the director of “Seven” and “The Social Network,” has expressed interest in doing a remake, according to Bloody Disgusting.
(See articles on Wikipedia and IMDb.)

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

“Looking for Mr. Goodbar” was the first significant movie for Diane Keaton, Richard Gere and Tom Berenger. It is overshadowed by “Annie Hall,” also starring Keaton, which was released the same year.
The film is based on Judith Rossner’s then-notorious novel of the same name, which was in turn based on the real-life murder of New York City schoolteacher Roseann Quinn, according to Wikipedia.
The movie was a financial and critical success and garnered Tuesday Weld an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
It was released on VHS but not on DVD or Blu-ray Disc. One possible reason is that the studio hasn’t been able to secure music rights for the film.

It Happened One Christmas (1977)

The made-for-television holiday movie “It Happened One Christmas,” starring Marlo Thomas, is a gender-reversal remake of the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“It Happened One Christmas” was first broadcast on ABC at a time when “It’s a Wonderful Life” was rarely aired on television and thus many viewers were unfamiliar with the story. “However, once the original 1946 film returned to the airwaves on an annual basis, the remake slipped into obscurity,” a Wikipedia article says.
The remake also starred Wayne Rogers, Orson Welles and Cloris Leachman.
On her Facebook page in December 2011, Thomas addressed the lack of a DVD release.
“A lot of you have asked about ‘It Happened One Christmas.’ I wish it was on DVD, too,” she said. “Lots of people request it. The movie is owned by Universal and they haven’t wanted to make a DVD of it. People should write to Universal and request that they do and maybe they will!”
Some unauthorized copies of the movie are currently being sold online as DVDs.
(Also see article on IMDb.)

Movie Movie (1978)

“Movie Movie” is a tribute to 1930’s double-bills in the form of two B-movies, with an old-fashioned intermission between the films. It consists of two films, Dynamite Hands, a boxing ring morality play, and Baxter’s Beauties of 1933, a musical comedy, both starring the husband-and-wife team of George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. A fake trailer for a flying-ace movie set in World War I entitled Zero Hour (also starring Scott) is shown between the double feature, according to Wikipedia.
It was directed by Stanley Donen (“Singin’ in the Rain”) and co-written by Larry Gelbart (“M*A*S*H”).
It was never released on DVD but is available for digital download from Amazon.com.

The Word (1978)

“The Word” is an eight-hour miniseries (four episodes, 2 hours each) that aired on CBS. A 3-hour version was released on VHS in 1996. The entire miniseries has never been released on home video in any form, according to Wikipedia.
Based on a novel by Irving Wallace, the plot revolves around the discovery within Roman ruins of a new gospel believed written by a younger brother of Jesus named James. In this new gospel, many of the facts of Jesus’ life, including the years not mentioned in the Bible, are revealed not to be as factual as they were once thought to be.
Mother Angelica, the Roman Catholic nun who would launch EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) in 1981, was perturbed by the existence of this miniseries, deeming it “blasphemous,” according to IMDb.
The miniseries stars David Janssen, Kate Mulgrew, James Whitmore and John Huston.

Little Darlings (1980)

“Little Darlings” is an R-rated comedy starring Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol as two 15-year-old girls competing at a summer camp to see who can lose her virginity first. The movie also featured Matt Dillon.
The movie was notable for having a contemporary pop soundtrack, including music by artists such as Blondie, the Cars, Supertramp and Rickie Lee Jones. Music rights have caused problems for its home video release.
The original video release on VHS and laserdisc kept the soundtrack intact. But in the second VHS release, many songs in the film such as Supertramp’s “School”, John Lennon’s “Oh My Love” and The Bellamy Brothers’ “Let Your Love Flow” were removed due to licensing issues, and were replaced with sound-alikes, according to Wikipedia.
(Also see entry on IMDb.)

The Keep (1983)

“The Keep” is a horror movie directed by Michael Mann, who also did “Thief,” “Heat,” “The Insider” and “Collateral.” It’s the only feature film directed by Mann that has not been released on DVD.
The movie is about Nazis battling an ancient demon they inadvertently freed from its prison during World War II. The movie stars Scott Glenn, Jurgen Prochnow, Robert Prosky, Gabriel Byrne and Ian McKellen.
Mann’s original cut of the film ran three and a half hours (210 minutes). The theatrical version was 96 minutes and the VHS and laserdisc version was 91 minutes long, according to IMDb.
Internet Movie Database says there are two reasons why the movie hasn’t been released on DVD. First, the studio wasn’t able to obtain the rights to the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. Second, Michael Mann (who has disowned the film) forced the studio not to release it.
While not available on DVD or Blu-ray Disc in any country, it is available for streaming on Amazon instant video and available on Netflix in the U.S., Wikipedia says.

Electric Dreams (1984)

“Electric Dreams” is a charming science-fiction, romantic comedy-drama film set in San Francisco that depicts a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a home computer. It stars a young Virginia Madsen.
“Electric Dreams” was released on VHS but never on DVD in the U.S.
The soundtrack features music from prominent popular musicians of the time, including Culture Club, Giorgio Moroder and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra.
(See articles on Wikipedia and IMDb.)

Rad (1986)

“Rad” is an ’80s cult classic about BMX racing. It was directed by Hal Needham.
“Bill Allen plays a small-town guy named Cru Jones trying to make it in the cutthroat world of competitive BMX racing, while Full House’s own Lori Loughlin plays his love interest – they fall in love doing bike tricks at a school dance,” BuzzFeed gushed.
Many Internet groups are demanding the release of the film, according to Listverse.
“In the movie, Cru is faced with a tough decision – the qualifying races for the Helltrack bike competitions are on the same day as his SATs, which he must take in order to attend college,” according to Listverse. “Winning Helltrack means a lucrative sponsorship deal and fame.”
“Rad” came out when competitive bike racing was in its infancy and it is credited with helping to popularize the sport.

Buried Alive (1990)

“Buried Alive” is a made-for-TV horror thriller directed by Frank Darabont, who later made film adaptations of Stephen King novels “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile” and “The Mist.” He also brought “The Walking Dead” series to cable.
“Buried Alive” stars Tim Matheson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, William Atherton and Hoyt Axton.
It premiered on the USA Network and was later released on VHS in the U.S. It was released on DVD in Europe, but not in the U.S.
(See articles on Wikipedia and IMDb.)

The Addiction (1995)

“The Addiction” is a horror movie directed by Abel Ferrara. It’s about a New York philosophy grad student who turns into a vampire after getting bitten by one, and then tries to come to terms with her new lifestyle and frequent craving for human blood.
“The Addiction” stars Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra and Edie Falco.
It was released on DVD overseas, but not in the U.S.
(See articles on Wikipedia and IMDb.)

See also:

26 Hard-To-Find Movies That Remind Us Why VHS, DVD, And LaserDisc Still Matter (BuzzFeed; Aug. 20, 2014)

64 clips of movies you can’t find on DVD (New York Post; June 18, 2014)

Even more clips (70, in fact) of flicks you can’t find on DVD (New York Post; June 26, 2014)

Over 100 more movies that really ought to be on DVD (New York Post; July 20, 2014)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

14 notable TV shows not available on DVD

In 2010, I wrote an article about 10 good TV shows not available on DVD. This being 2014, I’ve decided to follow up that article with 14 interesting TV shows that have yet to be put out on DVD in the U.S.
Most of these shows were canceled after one season because of low ratings, but they’re worth a look.
I’ve included only scripted dramas and comedies, but there are some good fact-based series that have never been released on disc either.
  1. Herman’s Head (1991-94)
  2. Brimstone (1998-99)
  3. Cupid (1998-99)
  4. Robbery Homicide Division (2002)
  5. Miss Match (2003)
  6. Karen Sisco (2003-04)
  7. New Amsterdam (2008)
  8. Ashes to Ashes (2008-10)
  9. Cupid (2009)
  10. The Gates (2010)
  11. Awake (2012)
  12. Do No Harm (2012)
  13. 666 Park Avenue (2012-13)
  14. The Lottery (2014)
I covered seven of these shows in my article four years ago. So I’ll add a few notes about the other seven here.
“Herman’s Head” was a sitcom on the young Fox network. The main character is Herman Brooks who works in the fact-checking department of a major magazine publisher. It’s a typical office comedy except that the viewers see Herman’s emotions personified as characters inside his head. It’s a premise similar to Disney Pixar’s upcoming film “Inside Out.”
“New Amsterdam” starred Nikolaj Coster-Waldau before he had his breakout role in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” In “New Amsterdam,” he plays an immortal Dutch man born in 1607, who has lived most of his life in New York City and is a homicide detective in the present day. The plot is very similar to the current ABC show “Forever.”
“The Gates” was a short-lived summer series for ABC. It takes place in a quiet, upscale planned community where the residents include vampires, witches, werewolves and a succubus. The cast featured Rhona Mitra, who now stars on “The Last Ship.” The show is available to download from Amazon Instant Video.
“Awake” was a daring show about a cop who is living two realities – one in which his wife is alive, but his son is dead, and the other in which his son is alive, but his wife is dead. It starred Jason Isaacs of the “Harry Potter” film series. The show is available for digital purchase from Amazon.
“Do No Harm” was a modern take on the classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” story. Actress Alana de la Garza played basically the same type of role here as she does currently on “Forever” – partner to a man harboring a big secret.
“666 Park Avenue” was a supernatural drama about a haunted Manhattan apartment building. It starred Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams.
“The Lottery” was a drama set in a dystopian future where women have stopped having children due to an infertility pandemic. Lifetime recently canceled the show after its 10-episode first season.

Photos: Scene from NBC’s “Awake”; promotional art for “Do No Harm.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some TV shows likely will never get released on DVD

When digital video discs were king, most TV shows were expected to be released on DVD. Now with the rise of Internet video on demand, some programs might never get released on DVD or high-definition Blu-ray Disc.
And that’s a shame.
With DVDs, consumers could count on the best quality video available. Producers would use the best video source and remaster those works for DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Video quality on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime is inferior to that found on most physical media.
Making matters worse, finding your favorite old TV shows on streaming video is a chore. Sometimes they’re on competing services and other times they’re simply not available.
With TV shows on DVD, you could always buy them or find a DVD rental service.
But those days are likely ending with the rise of streaming services.
Recently a couple of long-awaited TV series were released on DVD: “Batman” (1966-68) and “The Wonder Years” (1988-93). Both were consistently among the most requested unreleased shows on TVShowsOnDVD.com, a website owned by TV Guide.
The top 10 unreleased TV shows now are:
  1. Salute Your Shorts (1991-92)
  2. Ed (2000-04)
  3. Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place (1998-2001)
  4. Homefront (1991-93)
  5. You Can’t Do That on Television (1979-90)
  6. John Doe (2002-03)
  7. Sisters (1991-96)
  8. Boston Public (2000-04)
  9. Step by Step (1991-1998)
  10. Cold Case (2003-10)
I previously wrote about the subject of TV shows not yet on DVD in August 2010.
Since then, several shows have finally made their way to DVD. In addition to “Batman” and “The Wonder Years,” shows out on DVD after a long delay include “Harry O” (1974-76), “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1974-78), “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976) and “China Beach” (1988-91).
With streaming becoming more prevalent and DVD sales declining, it’s increasingly likely that some of those remaining unreleased shows won’t be put on disc.

Photos: Promotional art for TV shows “Cold Case” and “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place,” both of which have not yet been released on DVD in the U.S.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Investing in marijuana industry still extremely speculative

With four states having legalized marijuana and more considering it, investors might be thinking pot is the next big thing. But marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, so Wall Street and big business are taking a hands off approach to the potential cash crop.
The website MarijuanaStocks.com lists 38 cannabis-related stocks. Nearly all of them are penny stocks, which are prone to market manipulation and bankruptcy. Three tickers on its list of Marijuana Stock Quotes are trading at less than a penny a share.
Marijuana Business Daily offers a list of 11 marijuana stocks. Same story: a bunch of crappy penny stocks that no one should touch with a 10-foot pole.
These sorry lists of public companies with ties to the cannabis trade don’t inspire much confidence in the industry.
Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California at Los Angeles, told Bloomberg that he’s skeptical about prospects for the recreational marijuana industry.
“I just don’t see how there’s money to be made producing an agricultural commodity,” he said. “Once this is a competitive market, prices will be driven down to the level of costs. Costs for cannabis are very small, if it’s produced legally.”
One “real” company connected with the marijuana business is GW Pharmaceuticals. It develops cannaboids for the treatment of cancer pain, multiple sclerosis spasticity and epilepsy. (See article at Investors.com.) It has a real business with a differentiated product offering.
You can’t say the same for the other guys.

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