Michael Geist On Canadian Copyright Extension And The Public Domain

This probably could just as well have been a Facebook post, but I just wanted to take a moment to note that over on his blog Michael Geist has been posting some really good articles about the recent announcement that the latest Canadian budget reforms also include an extension to the Copyright laws there, and the reasoning behind it and the repercussions of that extension. Here are links to some of those articles:

The Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway: Why Copyright Term Extension for Sound Recordings Could Cost Consumers Millions

Canadian Recording Industry: Works Entering the Public Domain Are Not in the Public Interest

Is the Great Canadian Copyright Giveaway Really About Some Cheap Beatles Records?

Competition Killer: Why the Copyright Term Extension For Sound Recordings Will Limit Consumer Choice and Increase Costs

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Recording Industry Got Their Copyright Term Extension

If you’re at all interested in the subject of Copyright Law and the Public Domain I highly recommend giving these articles a read, because the actions currently going on in Canada may very well foreshadow what is to come once the U.S, congress takes up the subject in the next few years, and right now the outlook is not very good.

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Classic Television Thursday #032 – Mr. and Mrs. North (1952-1954)

mmn1Husband and wife detective teams have long been a staple of the genre, and while Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man fame are perhaps the most well known example, they are far from the only couple to show up on the small screen to solve cases together.

A perfect example of this is the couple that are the focus of today’s Classic Television Thursday, Mr. and Mrs. North.

First appearing in 1936 in a series of short stories and novels written by real life husband and wife Richard and Frances Lockridge, the couple’s adventures were quickly adapted into a Broadway play, a 1942 movie, a radio series, and yes, finally a television series.

mmn2Mr. and Mrs North (first names Jerry and Pam, respectively) actually first appeared on television in a 1946 adaptation of the stage play. The television series, which starred Barbara Britton and Richard Denning as the eponymous couple premiered in 1952 on CBS before moving to NBC for its final season.

Notable for its charming wit and light pace, Mr. and Mrs. North also should receive kudos for the fact that unlike a lot of detective fiction at the time, Mrs. North was just as apt to come up with the solution to the crime as was her husband.

Here’s an episode from the first season of the show entitled “A Good Buy”. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posting Online Could Just Be The Death Of You – Unfriended (2015)

uf1I feel as though Unfriended worked much better for me than it should have.

Other than being a fan of innovative horror films (actually, I tend to be a fan of innovative films in any genre), I’m certainly not in its target demographic, and generally I find the online narcissism that is at the heart of this movie tiresome at best, and sometimes quite worrisome as it is reflected in today’s youth culture. Also, the simple concept of spending an hour and a half or so looking at a computer screen as someone surfs the web really strikes me, on the surface, as an unappealing idea.

Yet work it does, and I actually found myself quite drawn in to its central conceit in a way that was quite unexpected.

Part of the movie’s appeal lies very much in what drives any good ghost story / psychological thriller, which are the questions “What exactly is going on here?”, and “How much of what I’m seeing is actually real?”. The film also taps into currently relevant topics such as cyberbullying and its effects along with just how much of our lives are currently lived online, how much we reveal or don’t reveal about ourselves when we’re online, and how the lasting effects and traces of what we post online can, quite literally in this case, come back to haunt us.

I will say that I wonder how much of a lasting appeal Unfriended will have, since it is so much a movie of the now in the way that it reflects current cyber-culture, and how dated it might seem say ten or so years down the road, but as a movie that is very much rooted in the present it definitely takes advantage of all of the quirks and advantages and disadvantages of the way we currently experience the internet, including such things as untimely dropped signals and frustratingly long refresh rates.

uf3Yes, I admit I’m being intentionally vague in some places here, simply because I really don’t want to reveal too many of the twists that are in store for the viewer, as this really is one of those movies that I feel it’s best to go into knowing as little as possible beyond its basic setup. As a matter of fact, although as usual I’ll be posting the trailer at the bottom of this review, I really want to recommend skipping it, just so that you can approach it without any preconceived ideas of what you will be seeing.

There are a few things I do feel I should note, however. first off, there’s the issue of jump scares. yes, they do exist in the film, but they are well timed in a way that shows much more expertise than might be expected from the first feature from a basically unknown director.

uf2There are also quite a few disturbing images scattered throughout the film, and while some of them are associated with the aforementioned jump scares, there are also some that related to the YouTube videos that lie at the heart of the motivation for what unfolds during the film.

Finally, I have to give credit to the score and sound editing of the film. Again, this is one of those points where current trends are used well, as song selections chosen via Spotify do at times  enhance the mood of what is taking place onscreen, but also the underlying score is extremely effective in setting the tone throughout the film.

Simply put, as I implied at the first, I found Unfriended to be a movie that works much better than I expected it to, and I definitely recommend giving it a chance, even if you think the “found footage” genre (which it has been lumped into) is played out, as it goes just enough beyond that to be something unique and, while perhaps not completely original, enough of a twist on what has come before to deserve a look.

One last note: even as I was writing this, word came across my desk that Universal is already working on a sequel, which, though I suppose considering the low cost of creating this movie and the money it has made at the box office is inevitable, I was really hoping wouldn’t happen. This is a movie that stands quite well on its own, and doesn’t need a “Part Two”. One can only hope, I suppose, that the creators can find an approach to the follow-up that is just as innovative and well-structured as this one turned out to be. It seems unlikely, but I do hold out hope that whatever they turn out will be something beyond a quick cash-grab.

 

Saturday Breakfast Serial 023 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 12: Trial By Fire And Chapter 13: The Challenge

dt12Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Since we missed last week’s installment and I’m running kid of late this week, I think we’ll skip the look at serial history today and get straight to the serial with two episodes, but don’t worry, next week we’ll definitely start looking at the serials of Universal films.

In the meantime, here you go:

By the way, since we’re on Chapter 13 today, that means we’ve only two more chapters before we reach the end of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc., so it’s time for me to start thinking about what serial to feature next, and I’m definitely open to any nominations or requests, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know about them in the comments here or over on the DMM Facebook page.

Next up: Chapter 14: Invisible Terror.

Just Whose Story Is It? – Quickie Review: A Soldier’s Story (1984)

ss1The problem with Norman Jewison‘s 1984 film A Soldier’s Story is that while it tries very hard to be a movie with a message, and while it works for the most part on that level, it forgets one of the most basic characteristics of  film making: In order to truly succeed, a film has to be populated with people that are actually three-dimensional characters and not just two-dimensional stand-ins for various points of view.

Written by Charles Fuller who is here adapting his own Pulitzer Prize winning off-Broadway play A Soldier’s Play, A Soldier’s Story wants to not only start a discussion about racial conformity and advancement, it wants to be that entire discussion, a rather heady goal for a film that is also trying to fit a murder mystery into its perhaps too tightly packed 101 minute running time.

ss3Don’t get me wrong: A Soldier’s Story is a highly entertaining movie with some outstanding early performances by actors who would go on to have outstanding careers, and watching them in this film it’s easy to see why. Also, special recognition has to go to the late Adolph Caesar who unfortunately passed away only two years after the film’s release for his outstanding portrayal of the despised Sergeant Waters whose killing ignites the events portrayed in the film. Caesar received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the role, and it’s easy to see why.

ss4No the problem isn’t with the acting, nor with Jewison’s directing, (the film was also nominated for Best Picture, ultimately losing to Milos Forman’s Amadeus), though there are times when the movie’s origin as a stage play does come through, but with the script itself which simply does very little to move the characters beyond their representative types in a way that fleshes them out beyond the viewpoint that they are supposed to represent. Everyone involved really does the most they can with the material they’ve been given, it just feels, in the end, like they haven’t quite been given enough.

And ultimately, that’s a shame, because in many ways the argument that lies behind A Soldier’s Story is as relevant today as it was in the time the movie is set and the time in which it was made. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of failure that keeps the film from being a true classic.

Classic Television Thursday #031 – The Soupy Sales Show

so1Last time we looked at the classic panel game What’s My Line, and in the featured episode the “mystery guest” was Soupy Sales, so I thought this week we’d take a look at Mr. Pie-in-in-the-Face himself, Soupy Sales.

Born Milton Supman, “Soupy” is actually taken from a family nickname “Soupbone”. He had two other brothers, Leonard and Jack, who were respectively nicknamed “Hambone” and “Chicken Bone”. Yeah, I think it is pretty obvious just from that exactly where Mr. Sales might have developed his unique sense of humor.

Sales was not exactly known for his refined sense of humor. You may have noticed that I called him Mr. Pie-in-the-face earlier. That’s because taking a pie in any possible way he could became his trademark, and over his career, Soupy claimed that he ad the guests on his various shows had taken hits from somewhere around 20,000 (mostly cream) pies.

Sales had a number of different shows over the years, ranging from Lunch With Soupy which was an afternoon children’s program based in Detroit beginning in 1953, to The New Soupy Sales Show, which was broadcast out of L.A. in 1978.

Besides pies, Sales was also known for his work with puppet characters, the most famous of which was White Fang, which Wikipedia describes thusly:

“The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA”, who appeared only as a giant white shaggy paw with black triangular felt “claws”, jutting out from the corner of the screen. Fang spoke with unintelligible short grunts and growls, which Soupy repeated back in English, for comic effect. White Fang was often the pie thrower when Soupy’s jokes bombed.

Okay, I could go on, but really, the only way to appreciate Soupy Sales and his shows is to watch them, and today I’ve decided to give you two examples of his work over the years, one from the classic era when the show was broadcast out of New York, and the other from The New Soupy Sales Show.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trailer Parking – Here Are The New Trailers For Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, Mr. Holmes, Batman V Superman, And The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened?

It’s been a huge week or so for trailer leaks and releases, and I’ve already featured a couple of them here, but I thought I’d just do a quick roundup of some of the others that have come out recently with a few short comments on each, so here we go.

First up, it’s the new trailer for the latest Fantastic Four reboot:

Okay, obviously, this isn’t the Fantastic Four that I grew up with or even those who only know the characters from the previous movies.. It’s much more obviously based on the “Ultimate Universe” take that Marvel created over a decade ago in an attempt to update those characters and bring them into the new millennium. That being said, I’m in a very strong “wait and see” mode on this one. Obviously, the young cast, led by Miles Teller is appealing, and the action and effects are going to be strong, but what it’s really going to come down to is the storytelling and the chemistry that these characters show onscreen. If they just get the tone right, then this could turn out to surpass what are – fortunately for the film – going to be low expectations, and it could turn out to be pretty good.

Next, Jurassic World:

For some reason I keep forgetting that this movie is coming out this year. I suppose a big part of it is that in all of the blockbuster onslaught that is happening both this year and next, a new Jurassic Park movie, which at other times would have been The Movie Of The Year, is just another feature. Nonetheless, it looks as though Chris Pratt, fresh off the huge success of Guardians of the Galaxy is bringing the same level of charm to this, and as long as he is allowed to do that and the producers have remembered that this should just be a fun “grab some popcorn and enjoy it movie”, this might be a world well worth visiting.

Let’s go a bit smaller next, with the release of the new UK trailer for Mr. Holmes:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Ian McKellen is an inspired choice to play an elderly Sherlock Holmes, and one has to wonder how well he might have fit into the role in his younger years. This may actually be one of the movies that I’m most anticipating getting to see this year, and the more footage we get, the more that sense of anticipation grows. My only hope is that despite it’s somewhat downer premise (Holmes losing his famed memory and how that affects his deductive skills) it doesn’t turn completely sentimental and sloppy during its final scenes. So far, however, things look really good.

Alright, let’s go ahead and do it. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Yeah, so there it is. You know, I can’t say that I’m surprised that the latest iteration of the title for this flick has Batman’s name out front, because this trailer just makes it look like we’re going to get exactly what I’ve been expecting: A superb performance by Ben Affleck as Batman in what is otherwise going to be a steaming pile of crap follow-up to Man of Steel. No. I’m not going to go into yet another rant on just how much I hated that movie and why, but it looks as though this film is going to be, tonally at least, more of the same. The thing is, this looks like it actually could be a pretty good adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns, and if that’s what Warners wanted to make, and if they had made that as a standalone film, then I would probably be completely on board with this as that movie. Unfortunately, that isn’t what this is being billed as, and even worse, it seems to be the major cornerstone that all of the other DC Comics movies coming out in the next few years is going to be built upon. So instead of a fun, relatively light and creative universe where each of the characters gets to be themselves and then come together to just up the ante while still retaining a real sense of adventure and wonder like Marvel has done with their properties (and, for that matter, like DC has done with their TV properties, where both Arrow and The Flash – and even Gotham, which should have the darker tone that it’s been generating – have completely embraced where they come from and what they are and have become and which has me completely psyched for the upcoming team-up spinoff), we’re going to get “grounded” and “gritty” takes on characters like Wonder Woman and Aquaman and the other characters that are going to be spinning out of this movie.

Finally, just to not end this on a completely down note, here’s a trailer for a film that I didn’t even know as coming out until yesterday: The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?

Superman Lives is one of those legendary comic book movie failures. Imagine 90s era Nicholas Cage starring in a Tim Burton directed, Kevin Smith written Superman movie. Yes, the fanboy head fairly ‘splodes! But for awhile, it seemed like it might actually be a Thing That Might Happen. So why didn’t it? Well, apparently that’s exactly what this documentary sets out to explore. Now obviously, this isn’t going to be the most serious or important documentary that’s going to come out this year, but nonetheless, it should be really entertaining, even for non-Superman fans, just because of the personalities involved. Like I said, I just found out about this yesterday, but it’s very quickly moved to a very high place on mt “can’t wait to see it” list.

So there you go. just a few of the latest trailers that have dropped in the past few days, and I’m sure, as we gear up towards the Summer there will be even more in the next few weeks. So what do you think about these, some of the other ones that I’ve already written about, or other movies coming that we’re still looking for more info on? Let me know!