Now, why would I need Suze Orman...
...when I've got my Guru, Jon Stewart!  - Click here -


Anthony Hopkins To Play Odin In Thor Movie - #film

Happy Halloween!

I don't know what you dressed up as over the weekend, but I was in work clothes all throughout -- the idea of being away from work was scary enough. It was enough for me to see the young ones (and the once young) dress up as superheroes, but I was rather disappointed not to find even a half-decent Wonder Woman. Oh well, there's always next year.

Speaking of superheroes, I've been following the buildup towards the 2012 Avengers movie. This is obviously a mammoth undertaking for Marvel, since they'll obviously need to get the casting and writing just right, otherwise critics will have a field day spotting plot holes.

I have mixed feelings about Marvel's most recent casting decision for the "Thor" movie -- the legendary Anthony Hopkins has been picked to play Odin, the king of the Norse gods and father of Thor and Loki. While I have no doubt he'll make a great Odin, I'm a little worried about his health -- the last time I saw Sir Anthony, he was skinny. I sure hope he can keep up with the rigors of shooting more than a few superhero movies in the near future.

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Image credit: Found on Wikipedia - Link -

The rest of the Thor cast seems to be falling nicely into place -- Chris Hemsworth will play Thor, Tom Hiddleston will play Loki, and Natalie Portman will play Jane, Thor's love interest on Earth. (* I still think Triple H would have been a good Thor.)

In any case, it would be interesting to see how Sir Anthony would look like as Odin. I think he looked pretty good (well, his CG avatar, at least) as Hrothgar in "Beowulf," so with Gungnir in his hands, he should be quite a sight to see when "Thor" hits theaters on May 20, 2011.


* OK. You're right.  I  don't  really think that.

Will Google Music Be The Last Nail In The Traditional Media Coffin? - #music #internet

Google just recently unveiled the latest addition to their family of life-changing services -- Google Music. Now users can type the name of a song or artist, and Google lets users play the song as many times as they want through Lala.com or iLike.com. The feature hasn't been rolled out in and around Singapore yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Aside from curing brain itches all over the world (you hear a song on the radio, and you can't know who sang it unless you remember the lyrics and Google it), Google Music may also boost music sales in the near future. After all, Google is the world's most visited site -- now looking for music is no longer the chore it used to be.

Much has been said about Google Music over the past several weeks. It's been touted as the "iTunes killer" (yawn) or "Bing destroyer" (double yawn), but it's doubtful Google had either Apple or Microsoft in its sights when it came out with Google Music. If you ask me, they're just doing what they do best -- give relevant search results.

Of course, there isn't a doubt Google Music will get its share of criticism from entities in the music business. Apple fans, for instance, may see it as a challenge to iTunes' superiority over the digital music industry, a dominance Microsoft has for so long tried and failed to dent.

It doesn't feel like that to me. It's likely that the people who'll be searching for (and eventually buying) music on Google Music will be those who have never touched iTunes before, and believe you me, there's a lot of them out there. If Google Music's going to do anything, it's bound to be for the good of civilized society.

Oh, and I'm not worried about traditional music media, by the way. I doubt the radio will ever die* -- it's a part of civilization that, like jeans and t-shirts, will never go out of fashion.


* But if I'm wrong about the radio, please don't point it out. Just pretend like I was right anyway

Netflix Comes To Sony PlayStation 3 - #movies #internet #film

Last week, Netflix announced that their live HD movie streaming feature, back then only available to very happy Xbox 360 users (with the annual $49.99 LIVE subscription, that is), was going to be made available to "another device" soon -- and speculation was rife in the blogosphere. Was it going to be the iPhone? Maybe on Google Android? Perhaps on a new platform Netflix wants to promote?

My own guess was right -- it was going to be released on the Sony PlayStation 3.

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Image credit: Found on ecoustics.com  - Link -

It was a no-brainer for me and many other experts in the industry* -- I think the PS3 actually provides a better platform for Netflix's HD movie streaming offering. Since the PS3 slimmed down, both physically and price-wise, it had rocketed to the top of sales lists mere months ago. Now, with Blu-Ray support and fantastic online support, it looks like the PS3 is going to stay on top for a while.

Some Xbox 360 fans may dislike the idea. After all, Netflix's offering used to be "exclusive" to Xbox. Unfortunately, nothing really stays exclusive forever, at least not in this industry. Eventually Netflix will have to go where the profits lie, otherwise someone else will beat them to it -- worst case, with an even better offering.

PS3 users will definitely be pleased -- Netflix's service will only cost $8.99 a month. Unless something big comes along to challenge Netflix over the next few months, it's likely the PS3 will be spending them gaining even more ground on the Wii.


* Yes. I am an expert in my industry :)

Happy Birthday, Internet | #media #technology #internet

Many people think the Internet is technology's most recent innovation, but it actually began almost 40 years ago. US scientist Leonard Kleinrock had the idea of using an "interface message processor"(IMP) to access a computer from another location back in 1969, and while the first test was rather dismal, it was obviously the beginning of something new.

Back in October 29, 1969, Kleinrock hooked up a computer to the IMP and began to type the word "LOGIN," to be sent to a colleague in Stanford. But after typing the first two letters, the system crashed. So accidentally and aptly, the first word sent over the Internet was "LO" -- and behold!

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Image credit: Found on xkcd.com


The Internet has come a long way since that first word was sent over the first connection. Most people think the Internet only started out in the 80's, because that's when its more primitive forms first became commercially available. What do YOU remember about the Internet's early years?

I remember how e-mail changed the way people communicated. Telegrams were all of a sudden obsolete, and people now had an inexpensive way of communicating with their loved ones and colleagues out of town.

Sometime years later came the browser wars, Google, Wikipedia, and the row over music copyrights (and later general file sharing). Whether we liked it or not, the Internet was here to stay.

I think the biggest impact the Internet has made so far comes in the form of -- okay, I'll say it just this once -- social media. All of a sudden, it opened the doors for a tech-savvy underdog US Senator to reach unprecedented numbers of people and raise unprecedented amounts of money, wresting power from an otherwise immovable opposing party.

But for the rest of us, the Internet simply makes life a lot more interesting. Work is almost always more efficient with the Internet, and productivity levels haven't increased this much since the advent of air conditioning.

Many people say that, at 40 years, the Internet is still a teenager. If life truly does begin at 40, let's see what the next 40 has in store for us.

Walt Disney Imagineering's Joe Rohde to speak at SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 (Press Release) - #film #sfx #cg

Joe Rohde, Executive Designer and Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, is the 3rd Featured Speaker for SIGGRAPH Asia 2009. Scheduled to speak on the 19th of December, his talk is entitled Story Structure and the Design of Narrative Environments.

Rohdes talk will cover some guidelines and principles for creating spaces that serve both the initial needs of the primary designer or storyteller and the needs of future audiences, who may seek to re-adapt the narrative to their own purposes. The rules of storytelling are well understood when applied to traditional linear forms derived from literature, but spatial environments pose challenges that require special treatment. The principles that inform storytelling in built physical space can apply as well to virtual space.

Rohde is currently an Executive Designer and Senior Vice President at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is the creative lead for Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, and related new projects. He has led conceptualization, design, and production for Disney's Animal Kingdom since its inception in 1990. He also oversees creative development at Disney's newest luxury resort project in Hawaii, which is scheduled to open in 2011.

He also led development and production of Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. This project took him and other Imagineers to the mountains of Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibetan Sichuan, researching the background details to incorporate into the very authentic environment designed for Expedition Everest. His travels for the research and production work were featured in a series of hour-long programs on the Discovery Network.

He began his career at Walt Disney Imagineering as a model designer and scenic painter in 1980, working on the M鸩co pavilion for Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort. He also worked on numerous attractions for the redesigned Fantasyland at Disneyland in the 1980s, Captain EO, and the Norway pavilion for Epcot, before commencing his responsibilities on Disney's Animal Kingdom.

For more information on SIGGRAPH Asia 2009, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2009

About SIGGRAPH Asia

The 2nd ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia will take place in Pacifico Yokohama, Japan. Featuring an international conference from 16-19 December 2009, SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 offers works that provoke thoughts, explore ideas in innovative ways, address contemporary issues, interactively engage viewers in discovery, and stimulate their intellect and creativity through art, computer animation, courses, education, new technologies, technical papers, sketches and posters.

SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 also features a trade exhibition of products and services from the computer graphics and interactive marketplace. Held from 17-19 December 2009, it is also a recruitment ground for job seekers to meet potential employers. Sponsored by ACM, SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 is expected to to bring together 8,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals and enthusiasts from Asia and beyond. For more information, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2009.

The inaugural SIGGRAPH Asia 2008 was a resounding success. Artists, researchers, developers, gaming experts, filmmakers, as well as academics from 49 countries gathered in Singapore, spending four exciting days to discover new products, talents, technology and techniques in the digital media industry. In all, a total of 49 countries were represented in an array of thought-provoking works and breakthrough ideas presented at the show. For more information, please visit www.siggraph.org/asia2008.

About ACM

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGGRAPH sponsors SIGGRAPH Asia 2009. ACM is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

The Weekend's Superhero Roundup #film

When it comes to superhero movies, I'm pretty much looking forward to three -- "Green Lantern," "Spider-Man 4," and the next "X-Men" movie. Here's a quick roundup of what's going on with plans on all three movies.

#1 - Bryan Singer may helm the next X-Men movie. That's right, the man who brought the first and second X-Men movies is back, and has expressed his interest in returning to the franchise. He sat out of the third X-Men film to direct "Superman Returns," and also sat out "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

However, I think Singer may have his work cut out for him. I personally didn't like the third X-Men movie because they killed off so many characters, and "Wolverine" left so many plot holes to fill. It'll be interesting to see how well Singer would do if the job was returned to him.

#2 - Spider-Man 4 will thankfully NOT have 4 villains. Sam Raimi returns to direct the fourth Spidey film, and it's good to know that he agrees with many Spider-Man fans -- having three villains in a movie can be pretty distracting. What's more, Raimi claims he learned a few things after directing "Drag Me To Hell," so it's likely the fourth Spider-Man won't be as unvaried as the third.

#3 - Recession hits the Green Lantern. Warner Brothers Studios has canceled plans of producing "Green Lantern" in Australia because of the US dollar's faltering value. They are now in the process of looking for alternative areas of the world to shoot, most likely Canada or Mexico.

As of last week, one Australian dollar was worth US$0.95, which was a nearly 30% increase from six months ago, when Green Lantern was given the green light. Production costs would have increased by around $20 million, apparently something Warner Brothers wasn't willing to risk. Looks like the movie industry isn't as impervious to the recession as we thought it was.

This Year's Animated Feature Oscar Is "Up" For Grabs #film #animation

"Up" is one of Pixar Animation's best animated offerings yet -- some say it tops "Wall-E," though I'll have to get back to you on that. Anyway, "Up" is so far the third-biggest movie of 2009, only behind "Transformers 2" and "Harry Potter 6." Everybody's thinking it's going to run away with the next Animated Feature Oscar -- but I don't think it's going to be that simple.


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Image credit: Pixar Animation Studios


The Oscar for Best Animated Feature has seen slim pickings in recent years. But next year, it's likely we're going to have five nominees for the first time in a long while. It's been a great year for animated feature films, and we may see as many as sixteen vying for the five nominee slots. My picks?

#1 - "Up." Hands down, one of the best animated films ever made. Pixar always shines the brightest when it tells fun, original, out-of-this-world stories. You can't get any crazier than an old groan with a flying house, a clumsy but determined Boy Scout, and a talking dog, but at the same time, you can't help but get teary-eyed after the montage of Carl's life with Elly comes to an end. Brilliant.

#2 - "9" by David Acker. What started as a dark, mysterious short film about living puppets trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world has evolved into a full-length feature film, thanks to the discerning eye of Tim Burton. The original short film had caught my eye after being nominated for Best Animated Short a few years ago, and I definitely think it has what it takes to get the top prize.

#3 - "Coraline." Alice in Wonderland gone wrong? "Coraline" shows that stop-motion can still hold its ground against bigger-budgeted 3-D animated films by simply telling one of the most engaging stories told all year.

#4 - "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs." This one's probably my least favorite of the bunch, but I've always liked the Ice Age movies. I always thought they deserved an Oscar if only for bringing us the most hilarious squirrel in history. The first "Ice Age" almost won the 2002 Animated Feature Oscar, only to be upset by "Spirited Away" by Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki...

#5 - ...who happens to be back with "Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea." I think "Ponyo" is the underdog of the bunch, being drawn traditionally (with crayon, at that). But with his brand of magic, Miyazaki stands poised to upset the guys behind "Ice Age" once again.

So ultimately I think it's Pete Docter's "Up" vs. Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo," although "9" winning the Oscar would be pretty cool too. My money's still with "Up," though an upset won't upset me in the least.

Paranormal Activity -- The Next "Blair Witch Project" #film

Film-making is a business among many other things, and like most other businesses, the more money you invest in it, the more likely it's going to succeed. But right now, there's a film going around that's doing extremely well in the box office -- and it was shot with a mere $20,000 budget.

"Paranormal Activity" is a feature-length movie produced and directed by Oren Peli, a video game programmer who thought it would be cool to shoot a "Blair Witch"-esque movie -- hi kids, "The Blair Witch Project" was a $60,000 film that grossed over $140 million in the box office back in 1999. With a handful of unknown actors, Peli went on to produce "Paranormal Activity" over a span of one week in 2006, shooting and editing all at the same time.

Note:
Oct 16, 2009 - Updates to this story have been added to the following paragraphs.
Oct 17, 2009 - Added limited-release movie trailer


After a series of post-production problems, Peli was finally able to debut "Paranormal Activity" on a few select screens around the United States. Audiences all over the place unanimously agreed the movie was "pretty scary" -- with some people leaving midway through the film simply because they couldn't take any more. Even director Steven Spielberg couldn't watch the entire movie in one go.

Word of mouth and, of course, participatory media was instrumental in bringing the film to mainstream popularity. Obviously when people think it's cool, they're going to Tweet it to death -- another bit of proof that there's more than just the traditional way to get your movie the mileage it receives.

The movie's reception has been so good that it's scheduled to open in cinemas all over the United States today. It's likely a big blow to most Hollywood studios, who only a few years ago turned down Peli's offers to have the film made into a feature. That was until Jason Blum, who also produced "The Reader," came across it -- and was so spooked the night after watching it that he decided not to pass on it.

"Paranormal Activity" is doing so well that it's bound to garner Peli -- and the actors he worked with -- some due recognition. There aren't any details as to when the film will reach Malaysian and Singaporean shores, but when it does, it's bound to show local filmmakers -- both professional and independent -- a thing or two about good storytelling.

Archon Defender -- Feature Film Created On Second-hand Computers

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Image credit: Found on Digipendence.com   - Link -

If you were into movies or video games when you were growing up, you probably fantasized about coming up with your own feature-length production all by yourself. Later you may have realized that there's a reason why the credits at the end of a movie can last a full half-hour -- you get the idea that to come up with a good feature, you'll need a team. No, not a team -- an army.

David T. Krupicz busts the myth.

David is an ordinary guy who works in a call center as his full-time day job. But during his free time, he tinkers with obsolete animation software and second-hand computers to create animated shorts. If you've come across the "Rocketmen vs. Robots" series on YouTube, then you're familiar with David's work.


But now, David has finally finished his first feature length animated film -- the 65-minute masterpiece, "Archon Defender." The film is set in a sci-fi/fantasy world called Echelon, where the evil Empress Lucia is waging war against all who oppose her, particularly the magical "Shard Sensitives." Collette, a young girl whose Shard powers have recently awakened, must set aside her feelings of loneliness and isolation to face the Empress.

What's great about "Archon Defender" is that it's totally free for viewing -- David posted his entire film on YouTube, and is now offering paid downloads of the movie. It's a great way of sending the message, "If you like this movie and would like to see more in the future, please buy a copy." That way viewers would be funding David's next project. Brilliant -- it pulls the chair from under video piracy.

Sure, the animation may look "unusual" to the masses, and the computer-generated voices (in the YouTube video, though David has hired voice actors since then) may be a little monotonic, but David still shows what old software, second-hand computers, and three years' worth of free time can do.

N.B.: I strongly urge you to support Dave's work by purchasing a copy of Archon Defender here: http://www.filmbaby.com/films/4289

Amazon Kindle Goes Global -- Well, Almost

Amazon did a great job getting us on our feet when it recently announced it was coming out with an international version of the Kindle electronic book reader. Readers outside the United States have long wanted to get their hands on the most popular e-reader today, and it would seem that the wait will be over in October 19. Well, for most of us, at least.

Possibly the biggest buzz-kill of the season, Amazon surprisingly isn't offering the international Kindle in some of the biggest markets in the world -- Canada, China, New Zealand, South Korea, and (you guessed it) Singapore. Readers around the world have e-mailed Amazon asking for an explanation, but all Amazon could say is that they're working to make the international Kindle available in all countries down the line.

Adding salt to the wounds is the fact that Zimbabwe, with its million-percent inflation rates, are getting the Kindle. What gives?

There are two major hurdles to offering the Kindle in a particular country -- the first are local publishers, who may argue the Kindle may be stepping on some touchy copyright issues. The other reason are the local carriers, who need to offer AT&T's WhisperNet service to reach Kindle users -- and this might take a bit of negotiation.

In most countries, local publishers are saying they're not the ones holding things up.

I'm an optimist, and I like to think that this is just the first of many stages in which Amazon plans to make the Kindle available to the rest of us. I'd like to think that Amazon is really negotiating with Singapore's carriers, and I'd like to think that I'll still have the chance of getting my own Kindle before Christmas.

Let's just hope Amazon gets moving soon, before Sony and other rivals move in with some new stuff before them.