The view from Macworld iWorld 2012 January 29, 2012Posted by ronannarbor in Apple, Gizmos.
Tags: Macworld iWorld 2012
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It’s the ultimate Apple/Mac geek fest — the annual Macworld conference in San Francisco’s Moscone Center….this year re-named “Macworld iWorld” to emphasize the role that the internet now has. There was fear a few years back that Apple (who chose to stop attending the conference) would sound the death knell for Macworld — far from. There were more exhibits this year than ever. The emphasis on music, art, and writing increases yearly, and the even has become a “must attend” for Mac geeks like myself.
So, what did things look like this year? Well, there was a much larger emphasis on apps than in the past, for all versions of iOS (iPhone, iPad, and Lion). There was also a significant decrease in hardware presence, and much more on software. Xerox and HP, for example, while maintaining booths really had trouble attracting visitors — most flocked to the nearby scanner displays instead (Scansnap was doing swift business). Let’s face it — when was the last time you actually printed a photo instead of sharing it with friends by email, iPhone, or Facebook? There was also a heavy emphasis on social events — evening parties, concerts, jam sessions heavily geared toward tech support folks who know what phrases like “the grapefruit is pink” means…
There was also a de-emphasis on the servers/work stations hardware, and much more emphasis on iPad/iPhone accessories (the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad cases, bumpers, and hard shells were omnipresent, ranging from the superb to the deranged).
What stood out? Well, folio keyboards for the iPad were big — and had huge draws. Zagg had a strong presence, and they were selling their iPad 2 zagg folios at discount….myself, I went directly for the new clamcase for iPad 2 and am waiting for its delivery in a few days — see clamcase.com
Input devices were also big — there were two separate pen/paintbrush-type styli for the iPad and iPhone and both even won best in show 2012 – check out the Jot Touch pen, for example — these were selling like hotcakes right off the floor… http://adonit.net/product/jot-touch/ But it wasn’t just limited to physical input — microphones for the iPhone and iPad were also hot this year, and several won best in show honors.
Want to see possibly the most jaw-dropping new application ever?….and its free on iTunes — check out TourWrist for iPad….it’s seriously the most amazing photo software you could imagine, creating 360 degree panoramas that look drop dead gorgeous on the iPad.
Also a big breakthrough — Smile software has adapted it’s PDFpen software for Mac to the iPad — PDFpen will allow Mac users to finally say goodbye to Adobe forever — something that didn’t go unnoticed at Macworld/iWorld — there was no Adobe presence at the conference at all.
Finally — and this is always a big part of Macworld — there was the camaraderie — thousands and thousands of Apple Mac fans found a place to share all that tech geek knowledge; nobody thought twice about meeting new friends with a simple “what’s your favorite app?”; and Moscone Center came to life with the world of iPhones and iPads and Lions…and nobody blinked when a Mac geek from Ann Arbor got up on stage on the second floor concourse and helped jam to some Coldplay songs on a iPad-keyboard while others from Iowa, Berkeley, and San Jose jammed on their iPad “guitars”…although ultimately it did remind me of that classic “HIMYM” scene in which Barney eggs on Ted who is dancing a rain dance with a “still funny….still funny….and now it’s just sad.”
Will America buy “Smash”? – NBC – Pilot episode (review) January 18, 2012Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, TV.
Tags: Smash NBC, Smash pilot episode review
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Your going to love it or your going to hate it, but there isn’t anyone that will be able to say that SMASH isn’t slick, well-produced, and professional when it comes to musical numbers. It’s no GLEE (thankfully); but will America buy into a show about creating a Broadway show?
In the pilot episode, (to air February 6th), Debra Messing and Christian Borle play musical theater writers/composers/lyricists of a new Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Those of us of a certain age will remember there actually WAS a Broadway flop musical in the 80′s called Marilyn: A Musical Fable (which Frank Rich called “incoherent to the point of being loony”). That flop is referenced here in passing by Messing’s husband, played by Brian d’Arcy James. He’s the biggest Broadway star in the show – here delegated to a thankless non-singing character.
WIthout having written a script, and with only a song to demo, they somehow get picked up by producer Anjelica Huston, who may or may not have enough money to produce the show. But she’s in it to get back at her in-process divorce from her husband, another Broadway producer. Within the first 15 minutes of the pilot, they suddenly have three songs and a draft of the script (um, yeah)….and by the midway point, they are auditioning director/choreographer Jack Davenport (yes, that Jack Davenport, who has yet to find a suitable role in any U.S. television show — someone please find this man a decent part!) – who is set up to be the antagonist opposite Borle’s writer/composer.
Bring on the auditions — Likable American Idol loser Katharine McPhee and “Wicked” veteran Megan Hilty step up to fill the bill as two actresses competing for the part of Marilyn. Throw in a subplot right out of Dynasty involving director Davenport, and you have the basic makings of SMASH.
The show is designed to follow the workshop development of the show in NYC over the course of the season, and in its climax this spring move to Boston for an out-of-town tryout.
Yes, the show is entertaining. The musical numbers are well-staged, and the use of fantasy sequences to suggest what rehearsal songs might look like “on stage” work well. There is a lot of dancing here, and it is professional and slick, the exact opposite of the haphazard GLEE sequences.
It’s also all overwrought and somehow wrong. Auditioners are not even given three bars of piano-accompanied audition when a full orchestra already sweeps in, as if to say “this is a really big budget show, kinda like Glee, but for adults, so listen and enjoy, and buy our soundtrack.” I have never in my years of theater ever heard of a producer picking up a show based on one song, and no written script. While there is a casting couch at work on Broadway to be sure, it certainly doesn’t work the way its implied in this show either. Messing seems out of place, and Borle here is reduced to a sniping gay stereotype — so good in Legally Blonde and Angels in America on Broadway, here he’s wasted in a part that virtually falls apart before your eyes.
The show is filled with a virtual whose who of Broadway performers — so watch backgrounds carefully to spot your friends. Most are appearing as line-less studio assistants and errand-boys. A few get to dance and sing.
In short, it’s an entertaining pilot, that should keep theater folks arguing about realities vs exaggerations, while the rest of the country makes a decision as to whether a show about Broadway actors, producers, and creative teams will be interesting enough to viewers to keep this novelty going. I’m going to tune in again — albeit the next night since NBC has very unfortunately decided to put the show on opposite Castle and Hawaii-5-0. I suggest they move it pretty fast if they want to pick up a tv audience. I dunno about you, but most of my theater friends watch Castle at that time, and personally 5-0 has become a guilty pleasure. On Comcast, two shows at a time and that’s it — making no room even to DVR Smash…
A word of warning — if you download and view the pilot (free) on iTunes, please DO NOT watch the “coming season” trailer at the end of the pilot episode. If you watch it carefully, it gives away who will get the role, and how the show will develop. Don’t watch it – it’s already partially ruined it for me…if you want a nice insider snapshot of the show, read the Brian d’Arcy James interview on IMDB – he carefully describes what the development of a Broadway musical is really about, and very carefully avoids talking about the unrealistic elements depicted in Smash.
The show has already created a stir in the NYC Broadway community in forums such as All That Chat, where multithread topics discuss the lack of reality of the creation process depicted here, as well as the shear fact that only one of the auditioners for the Marilyn part is appropriate for the role and there is zero doubt who would get that part in reality. I repeat — DO NOT watch the coming season trailer which gives it away and will cause even more controversy when it is revealed a few episodes into the series.
Will America buy it? There are a lot of theater fans out there — if the show avoids the pitfalls of playing for personal drama instead of the inherent drama in the actual development of a show itself, it might stand a chance. But I bet with NBC’s track record this show will quickly veer off in the wrong direction.
2011 Holiday Release Movies – Capsule Reviews January 1, 2012Posted by ronannarbor in Movies.
Tags: Holiday movie releases 2011
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In lieu of full reviews for each of the following films as I have done in past holiday seasons, this year the movies are so well known and so thoroughly reviewed elsewhere that I will merely add capsule review summaries….From the sublime to the terrible:
THE ARTIST, currently front runner for Best Picture, and deservedly so, is a throwback to silent movies of the 20′s, with a modern sensibility. It ends with a three minute tap sequence that is easily one of the movie highlights of the year. I loved this movie top to bottom, and if you enjoy the craft of movie making and story telling, then don’t miss it.
Hand in hand is its modern partner HUGO, Martin Scorsese’s paean to the creation of film making. Based on the children’s book, it faithfully captures the spirit of the novel, while adding a depth of artistic celebration of all things good in films. Highly enjoyable, moreso for adults than children.
WAR HORSE galloped into movie theaters on Christmas Day, and it’s a splendid adaptation of the book by Spielberg and company. Sure, it’s more magical on stage at the Vivian Beaumont theater at Lincoln Center with those gorgeous Handspring Puppet Company horses, but the story shimmers on the big screen. Filmed for family audiences, Spielberg’s violence quotient is toned down, while never eliminating the horrors of the war story beneath. Highly recommended.
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4: GHOST PROTOCOL is easily the best of the lot, and easily the best action movie of the holiday season. Jeremy Renner turns in an excellent performance, and Tom Cruise is tolerable. The action sequences are staged with brio and playfulness. You’ll have a great time, and woe-be-to-you if you have a fear of heights, because the centerpiece sequence of the film on the exterior of the world’s tallest building is brilliant – and nausea inducing, especially if seen in IMAX.
George Clooney scores another hit in the drama THE DESCENDANTS, which owes more than half it’s storyline to Terms of Endearment. The acting here is brilliant, and the film is a subtle study of grief, forgiveness, and those coincidences that give life meaning. Look for a Best Picture nomination. But don’t think it’s a fluff piece. This is serious drama, and its well acted and played, and the cinematography transports you to a Hawaii that most of us have never seen.
Also dealing with grief is the woefully misnamed WE BOUGHT A ZOO, which is really more about death, letting go, and moving on, and much less about the “hilarious zoo story” the movie is advertised to be to suck in your 7 year olds. There is little here for them, other than some adorable animals that make cameo appearances. But it’s really a family drama about learning to move on after the death of your spouse. I loved this movie, despite its schmaltz, and continue to admire what Cameron Crowe is able to do with minor material, and how good of an actor Matt Damon is becoming.
If you’ve already seen the Swedish version of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO you’ve already seen the better of the two versions, although this is a perfectly good adaptation. Mostly you leave thinking that this was only the first third of the trilogy, and it’s a long one at that. The jarring Swedish accents by its international cast are also somewhat offputting. Its worth a viewing, but there are other films I’d see first.
THE MUPPETS is a perfectly awesome work of whimsy, thanks to Jason Segal and those hilarious Jim Henson creations. You’ll most likely find yourself tearing up often during this film if you are old enough to remember the original tv show and movies, and guaranteed during “Rainbow Connection” near the end of the film. Are you a Muppet of a Man, or a Very Manly Muppet? Go see this movie.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: GAME OF SHADOWS is basically a remake of the first movie, with a slightly more interesting story. Guy Ritchie has created a perfectly entertaining movie, while creating a London that is soul-less and bland. The sequel travels outside the UK for a good portion of the film, and its better for it. A decent evening out, but you won’t remember any of it the next morning.
THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN is mind-numbingly dull…most of us in the US did not grow up with this character, and its evident twenty minutes into the movie when you are on your third chase scene (all brilliantly drawn), when the under-12′s start gabbing, running around the theatre, and heading to the refreshment stands. The movie does nothing to create new fans, and doesn’t do much to keep those who are fans happy either.
Even worse is the mind and eye-numbing NEW YEAR’S EVE — in fact, you’ll want to stick a fork in your eyes by the time the twentieth major actor is introduced about fifteen minutes into the movie. In all honesty I lasted another 15 minutes and walked out at the half-hour mark, right around the time the film begins to get even more gag-bysmal. It’s the second worst reviewed movie of the year for very good reason. You have been warned.
YOUNG ADULT is a perfectly presentable movie if you a) like snarky and borderline psychotic lead characters; b) like Jason Reitman movies (yuck), and c) really have a love of those “go home to find yourself” movies…This is the second most feel-bad movie of the year. You won’t hate yourself for seeing the movie, but you might find yourself going home and deleting lots of old high school acquaintances from your Facebook contacts.
Several smaller films are still hanging around: MELANCHOLIA (the most feel-bad movie of the year) continues to show that Lars Von Trier is one of the best story-tellers around, and that his movies continue to become more depressing as the go on. MARGIN CALL is a brilliant look at the world of finance that most of us would never know about otherwise: it stars an excellent Zachary Quinto and ensemble cast, and views more like a play than a movie. Both Melancholia and Margin Call, while available at movie theaters, are also available on iTunes for rent or purchase, as well as Netflix. Also still hanging around are the less-than-blockbuster J. EDGAR, which has some excellent performances, and MY WEEK WITH MARILYN which seemed like it was a week too long to me.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is a decent enough Christmas movie, with creepy CGI-based animation that still hasn’t figured out how to make human faces workable. The story is lightweight and funny, and although it is far from the “instant Christmas classic” that it is advertised to be, it will keep the “Prep and Landing” crowd satisfied.
One more for your consideration — mostly because it will certainly be considered for Acadamy Awards this year….on DVD and download is the August release THE HELP. If you have not seen it yet, rent it or buy it now. You’ll thank yourself for going back to watch this feature. In a similar boat is 50/50, the largely unseen fall release about a young man with cancer that is among my top 5 movies of the year.
And that’s the capsule summary for the holiday season. The only movies I did not go see are any of the horror movies, which I do not go to see, and any movies geared to the under-10 crowd (i.e. the Chipmunks movies).
My choices for the Best 5 Movies of the year?
1. THE ARTIST
3. WAR HORSE
4. THE DESCENDANTS
and I have to add a sentimental sixth: THE HELP