Monday, April 18, 2011

Misfire Ahead

From Variety via Ain't It Cool News comes word that a movie featuring Donald Westlake's classic hard-nosed thief Parker is now beginning pre-production. And sadly, it appears already that it will suck.

I love these series of books, which mostly appeared back in the late 60's and 70's, and then were recently revived in a somewhat new continuity by Westlake during the 2000's. Various books from the series have been adapted before, most famously with Mel Gibson in the lead (although renamed to "Porter") in Payback.

Although short, the Variety piece already throws up two big red flags for me. First, the lead will be taken by Jason Statham. Let's put aside for a moment that Parker is American, and I don't see Statham changing his accent any time soon. Statham has developed over the years into a big, fairly flashy action star. That isn't Parker. Parker and his teams aren't guns-blazing, explosion-blasting types. They are thieves - break in (preferably when few people are around), get control of the situation, get the loot, get out. I don't see Parker getting into any ten-minute long fist and gun fights, and that's where Statham's career has taken him now. I'd rather see someone with a little more quiet intensity. I actually picture someone like a younger Lance Henriksen, rather than Jason Statham.

Second, as taken from the article:
Pic, based on the book series by Donald Westlake, revolves around a thief who, though at times is forced to be a killer, still lives by a code of honor that includes never stealing money from people who need it. His word is his bond, and if he is crossed he will strike back relentlessly.

This guy isn't some kind of Robin Hood guy. He doesn't steal from "the rich" (and keep for himself). He steals from whomever has money - sometimes it's a rich person, sometimes it's a legitimate business, sometimes a bank, sometimes a racetrack...he isn't an altruist.

His "code of honor" is simple - get out of the job alive. He doesn't kill without reason, but that's because killing usually adds complications to a job (the police tend to treat murder a bit more seriously than a theft). He has an implicit "word" with his co-conspirators, but he keeps one eye on them just as much as on his victims. He's not out to screw his partners over, but if they step even a bit out of line, he's fully prepared to look out for Number One. So this view of Parker as some kind of "noble thief" shows that the writer is already off the tracks.

This won't be the worst Westlake adaptation by a long shot - I couldn't get through more than a few minutes of What's The Worst That Could Happen (which took his comic thief Dortmunder and turned him into, shudder, Martin Lawrence). But I'm not looking for it to go high on the list, either.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Now In Color!

I haven't had any real problems with my Sony Bravia HDTV (model KDL-52W5100), which has two types of internet capabilities. First, it has native "apps", which are accessed through Sony's XMB interface (the same one they use on the Playstation 3). Most of these apps simply access feeds (RSS or something similar) from various audio/video serving sites and provide a simple folder-based browsing interface to drill down to specific content. These all generally work well (with the exception of the DLNA server support, which is still a fairly hit-or-miss affair for some reason).

Second, it has Yahoo Connected TV widgets. These are small apps that can be popped up over part or all of the screen, and can access various internet-served data, videos, pictures, games, and so on. As opposed to the native apps, these Yahoo widgets are uniformly bad. The startup time to bring up either the widget engine as a whole, or individual widgets, is unacceptably long. The functionality of the individual apps is generally limited (since you only have the TV remote as an input). I don't really do Facebook or Twitter, so I can't say if those apps work better than the others, but so far I haven't found any reason to bring up the Yahoo apps beyond the first couple of attempts.

But via Engadget HD, it appears that Sony is going to try and see if someone will pay for these apps going forward. It's an obvious move - any revenue stream in a storm - but these things aren't even worth the $1 purchase price I wouldn't think twice about clicking for on the iTunes App Store, for example. Unless Yahoo has some kind of major revamp in place (and the screenshots provided don't really indicate that), or unless the next generation of Sony HDTVs has substantially more CPU power under the hood (which is certainly possible), I personally would stay away.

Also unanswered is how much of these upgrades and improvements will be pushed back to older models. I'm not one of those people that insists on endless free upgrades on everything I buy forever and ever - just curious on how much of this is just a software push versus being dependent on new hardware.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Morning Constitutional

On the idiot convention that is C-SPAN's Washington Journal, I've already heard two callers on the Democrat line describe themselves as poor, wondering why the evil rich guys won't pay their fair share. Putting aside the stupidity of their assertion that "the rich" aren't paying enough (when the top 1% pays over 40% of the income tax), my first thought was...if you are poor, how on earth are you watching C-SPAN?

The C in C-SPAN stands for Cable. It is a cable channel. You must pay someone - Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, whoever - a monthly subscription fee in order to watch it. And it isn't a trivial amount, it's at least $20 a month and probably much more.

If you are spending money on cable television, you are not poor. Cable television is not a basic fundamental right, it is not a basic utility like electricity or water. It is a luxury.

Obama (and Democrats in general) want to redefine poor upwards - to have more people believe themselves to be incapable of supporting themselves without help from the government. Multiple cars, a house, cable TV, high-speed internet - these are all things that "the poor" have to have, meaning (a) if you don't have them, the government has to supply them, and (b) even if you do have them, you still should consider yourself as wards of the government. Those are both ruinous ideas for the long-term financial viability of the country.

If you call up C-SPAN and complain about being one of "the poor" that need Obama to reach into my wallet to keep you afloat....well, now I know you are full of it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Great Ideas In Broadcasting

The Science Channel (which, of course, features less and less actual science content each week) has apparently decided to rename itself.

To Science.

In how many ways is this dumb? Too many to count, but the first one to occur to me is - won't this change make it harder to search for content on their website via search engines? You've just changed your name to a generic word, and not one (like Apple or Windows) that you already have a large web presence in.

Oh, and then there's this: "The [new] interactive logo, called 'Morph,' will change shape, texture and sound to represent 'the potential of the future while displaying a willingness to reshape current reality.'" I'm guessing someone doesn't know what the word interactive means; they most likely meant dynamic or something similar. If I can somehow affect the behavior of their on-screen bug with my remote, I'll be mighty impressed.

But it gets even better: "Dropping 'Channel' from the network name was done to better reflect the new programming launched in the first quarter like An Idiot Abroad and Firefly that are on the edges of science, says Debbie Adler Myers, executive VP and general manager of Science."

You are going to 'the edges of science' (whatever that means), and you can better indicate that by....removing all words except Science from your name?

Well, all they had to do was be less stupid than Syfy, so....mission accomplished.