Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hollywood hot for fairytales

Hollywood has rediscovered fairytales.
Numerous movies and television shows lately have been based on characters and stories from age-old fairytales. The public knows and loves these tales. And Hollywood loves using them because they’re in the public domain. That means they’re no longer covered by copyright and are free for anyone to adapt.
Disney isn’t the only media company that can make a “Snow White” or “Cinderella” movie, TV show, stage play or book. Any company, high school theater group, writer or cartoonist can adapt these works. That’s what the public domain is all about. After a limited period of government protection, creative works are given to the public for reinterpretation, reimagining and repurposing.
The public domain is a great thing. Too bad it’s under attack by corporate media interests.
I last wrote about Hollywood adaptations of public domain works in October, when I discussed “Puss In Boots” and “The Three Musketeers.”
Here is a list of current and upcoming movies and TV shows based on public domain works:

‘Once Upon a Time’

The ABC fantasy-drama “Once Upon a Time” uses a universe of classic fairytale characters (including Snow White, Prince Charming, Jiminy Cricket, Rumpelstiltskin, etc.) as a launching pad for a modern story. ABC is a unit of the Walt Disney Co.

‘Into the Woods’

Walt Disney Pictures has joined forces with director Rob Marshall to make a film adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Into the Woods,” according to GeekTyrant.
While “Into the Woods” is a copyrighted work, it is based on stories in the public domain. The stage musical “Wicked” and the book on which it’s based did the same thing with the public domain “Wizard of Oz” stories. “Into the Woods” weaves together such beloved fairytales as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel with a new story.


The NBC horror-drama “Grimm” is a cop show where characters inspired by “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” exist.

Snow White

Two big-budget movies based on the centuries-old Snow White story are due for release in theaters this spring.
First up is “Mirror Mirror,” starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen. Directed by Tarsem Singh, this version of the tale is billed as a comedy-fantasy. The movie from Relativity Media is set for release on March 30.
“Snow White & the Huntsman” follows it on June 1. This version from Universal Studios is pitched as a fantasy-adventure film. It stars Charlize Theron as evil queen Ravenna, Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman.
But wait, there’s more.
The Hollywood Reporter said in August that Disney was producing a live-action Snow White movie called “The Order of the Seven.” The revisionist story is set in 19th century China and focuses more on Snow’s seven companions, who are warriors seeking redemption.

‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’

Set for release on Jan. 10, 2013, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” takes place 15 years after siblings Hansel and Gretel escaped a witch’s gingerbread house in the Grimm Brothers tale. Now they’re out to kill witches all over the world.
The movie stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the titular characters. (See article by Entertainment Weekly.)

‘Jack the Giant Killer’

Director Bryan Singer turns the children’s tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” into an action adventure called “Jack the Giant Killer.” It stars Nicholas Hoult, Ian McShane and Ewan McGregor and is set for release on March 22, 2013. (See EW article.)


Disney is looking to remake the ages-old Cinderella tale with a script by “The Devil Wears Prada” writer Aline Brosh McKenna, according to Deadline.
Universal is planning its own Cinderella movie, Variety reports.

Beauty and the Beast

Director Guillermo del Toro is looking to film a “Beauty and the Beast” remake starring Emma Watson of the “Harry Potter” movies. His version would be a period film, according to MTV.
Director Christophe Gans is making a version of “Beauty and the Beast” starring Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
And two TV shows are in the works based on the fairy tale as well.
ABC is looking to make a dramatic fantasy-period series based on “Beauty and the Beast,” according to Deadline. And the CW wants to reboot the 1980s CBS version of “Beauty and the Beast,” a modern retelling that starred Linda Hamilton.

Sleeping Beauty

“True Grit” actress Hailee Steinfeld is set to star in a revisionist version of Sleeping Beauty. “The new version is told from her point of view as she enters the dream world and has to find her way out,” Deadline reports.
Meanwhile, Disney is working on a version called “Maleficent,” which would center on the wicked witch of the tale. Actress Angelina Jolie is rumored to be interested in the title role, Deadline and GeekTyrant say.
Update (Feb. 12, 2012): Jolie says she plans to make “Maleficent” her next movie, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Bond girls add sizzle to CES

Every Consumer Electronics Show has its share of celebrity appearances.
Sony always brings out the star power for its annual CES press event. This year’s media event included a performance by Kelly Clarkson of her new single “Mr. Know It All” and actor Will Smith promoting his upcoming movie “Men In Black 3.”
Actor and singer Justin Timberlake represented the relaunched MySpace at the Panasonic press conference.
Other celebrities in attendance included actress Eliza Dushku, singer Justin Bieber, rappers Ludacris and 50 Cent, “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, comic Wayne Brady, TV fitness guru Jillian Michaels, actor and rapper LL Cool J, Black Eyed Peas frontman and “Jersey Shore” reality TV star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.
My favorite celebrity event of the week was seeing Clarkson perform live.

But I also enjoyed the launch event for the James Bond movie series on Blu-ray Disc. In honor of the 50th anniversary of MGM’s James Bond franchise, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment sponsored a directors’ panel at the Panasonic booth.
Directors John Glen (five Bond films including “For Your Eyes Only” and “Octopussy”), Martin Campbell (“GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale”) and Michael Apted (“The World Is Not Enough”) discussed their work on the Bond films.
Also, the two latest Bond Girls, Olga Kurylenko of “Quantum of Solace” and Caterina Murino of “Casino Royale” hosted the event.
MGM and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are releasing “Bond 50,” a collectible box-set featuring all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray Disc for the first time in one complete offering. The collection also marks the debut of nine James Bond films previously unavailable in high-definition Blu-ray. is currently offering the set for pre-order for $199.99, 33% off the list price of $299.99. No release date has been scheduled.

Photos (top to bottom): Bond girls Olga Kurylenko (left) of “Quantum of Solace” and Caterina Murino of “Casino Royale”; Kelly Clarkson performs an acoustic version of “Mr. Know It All” at the Sony media event; and the “Bond 50” box set of James Bond spy thrillers on Blu-ray Disc. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Highlights and lowlights of the 2012 CES

The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show is one for the record books. This year’s show was the largest in the event’s 44-year history.
The four-day trade show in Las Vegas attracted more than 153,000 attendees, up 2.3% from a year ago and besting the previous record of 152,203 set in 2006. It drew more than 3,100 exhibitors who took up 1.861 million net square feet of show floor space – both new records.
The Consumer Electronics Association, the show’s producer, released the statistics late Friday, after the show had ended. The group wanted to dispel the notion that CES was on the wane – an idea that took hold after Microsoft announced in late December that it didn’t plan to exhibit or keynote after this year’s event. (See the Jan. 8 New York Times article “A Tech Show Loses Clout as Industry Shifts.”)
The numbers indicate that the show is doing quite well.

Microsoft says good-bye to CES

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave what was billed as the company’s last keynote speech at CES. That keynote, held Monday evening, only provided further proof that Microsoft won’t be missed at the show.
Ballmer’s final presentation at the show was mostly a bore. It contained little news, some embarrassing technical problems and several head-scratchers.
I’ve been saying as far back as two years ago, that CES should give the opening keynote speech to a company other than Microsoft.
While Microsoft is a powerhouse in personal computers, servers and business software, it has been outflanked by Apple, Google and other companies in consumer electronics, such as media players, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Microsoft’s Xbox video game system has been successful, but its digital living room initiatives have been tied to that one box, limiting its reach.
Instead of giving a speech, Ballmer gave rehearsed responses to planned questions by celebrity host Ryan Seacrest. The on-stage rapport between the gruff billionaire salesman and the effeminate “American Idol” host was awkward to say the least.
“The scent of desperation hung thick,” the Huffington Post noted, as Ballmer pitched late-to-market Windows phones and still-to-come Windows 8 for PCs and tablets.

Ballmer’s oddball final keynote

Microsoft’s final CES keynote was “a disorienting whirlwind of jaw-dropping absurdities,” the Huffington Post wrote. They included an auto-tune recap of prior Microsoft keynotes by digital music artist Pogo, a “Tweet Choir” of gospel singers, a trippy “Sesame Street” visit, and the forced banter between odd couple Ballmer and Seacrest.
And pity Derek Snyder, a senior product manager for the Windows Phone division, who endured a couple of high profile technical gaffes while showing off some new smartphones.
At one point, Snyder demonstrated speech-to-text transcription on a Windows Phone. In the demo, he tried to reply to a text message.
“Sounds great,” he spoke into the phone.
“Sound” was all the phone transcribed, setting off laughter in the crowd.
Later he had trouble switching demos from one phone to another.
“Sorry for the trouble tonight,” he told the crowd. You could see the flop sweat on his brow.

Last hurrah for Microsoft?

In introducing Ballmer, CEA chief executive Gary Shapiro held out hope that Microsoft would someday return to CES.
“I would be shocked if a Microsoft executive doesn’t return to keynote at CES in the next few years,” he said.

Buzzword of the year: Ultra

In 2010, the most bandied-about word at CES was “green,” as in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly products and initiatives.
In 2011, the favorite buzzword at the show was “smart,” as in smart TVs, smartphones, smart appliances and other products getting computer smarts.
This year, the buzzword was “ultra,” as in the proliferation of ultrathin and ultralight notebooks called ultrabooks and super high-definition televisions called ultradefinition TVs.

Best booth: LG Electronics

South Korea-based LG Electronics had the most dazzling exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center. A big focus of the booth was on 3-D televisions that use passive, movie theater-style glasses.
The LG presentation made me a believer that passive 3-D glasses could be effective when paired with the right set. Before that, I had been in the camp with companies promoting active-shutter, battery-powered 3-D glasses. Both technologies now look viable.
I particularly liked LG’s use of a 3-D music video starring Gina Choi, a gorgeous Korean-Canadian singer who goes by the stage name G.NA.

News media complaints

The number of news media attending the Consumer Electronics Show continues to rise, making covering press conferences and other events at the show a challenge.
For the first time in my 13 years attending CES, I was unable to get into a press conference, because the room was already filled to capacity some 20 minutes before its scheduled start.
On Press Day, when the CES slots back-to-back corporate press conferences from 8 a.m. through 6 p.m., it used to be possible to go from one media briefing to the next without a problem. Now, many reporters wait in a line for the big company events an hour ahead of time. So, the rooms fill up quickly. I heard many complaints this year from veteran CES media who were unable to get into press conferences such as Intel and Samsung.
This year, the CEA tried a new procedure for giving out VIP press invites for the various press conferences, but the number of tickets was limited to 100 for each event.
With the number of media and analysts rising from more than 4,000 in past years to more than 5,000 this year, something has to be done to accommodate all the interest in these press conferences. I would suggest that virtually all the seating be spoken for ahead of time and everyone else be directed a large overflow room with a live video feed.
CES is a big pain to cover as a journalist. Much of my time is wasted standing in line for transportation, trying to walk from one appointment to the next across the ginormous and crowded convention center or looking for an open space in the press room to work. Minimizing the hassles would make the show a much more pleasant experience.

Coolest products shown at CES

The 55-inch OLED HDTVs unveiled by LG and Samsung were stunning. The whisper-thin displays boast rich colors and deep contrasts. OLEDs are the next generation of TVs beyond LCD, but will be out of my price range for a while.
The ultrabook notebook computers from Acer, Hewlett-Packard and others made me wish I hadn’t been so quick to buy a new laptop last month. The lightweight notebooks feature fast start-up times and always-on Internet connectivity.
On a goofy note, I liked the Blast Chiller feature on some LG refrigerators. It can chill a can of beer or soda in as little as five minutes, where it would take 40 minutes with a conventional fridge today.
“Perfect for chilling a can of beer on a hot summer afternoon,” said Skott Ahn, president and chief technology officer for LG Electronics.
I’m also intrigued by PixelOptics and its electronic focusing eyewear.

Dumbest products announced at CES

CES had its share of duds as well.
LG and Samsung pushed smart kitchen appliances, including refrigerators that can suggest recipes for items you have on hand and alert you when you need to buy more of a certain item. I wouldn’t pay more for those features and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Sharp demonstrated its Freestyle Aquos transportable displays. These flat-screen TVs have 20- to 80-inch displays and come with handles so you can carry them around the house or into the backyard. Seriously? Who asked for that product? (See report by Tested.)
Finally, Samsung put a lot of resources into promoting its Samsung Galaxy Note. With its 5.3-inch display, the Android-based device is too big for a smartphone and too small for a decent tablet experience. (See article by USA Today.)

Photo credits: Panasonic booth at CES 2012 (CEA), Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at Microsoft keynote (CEA), ultrabooks at Intel booth (CEA), photo (, LG unveils 55-inch OLED HDTV (LG), Sharp Freestyle Aquos televisions at Sharp press conference (Tested), and author with Hopper the kangaroo at Dish press event at CES 2012.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Half of 2011 predictions on TMT proved right

Out of 10 predictions I curated a year ago for 2011, five arguably were correct.
Those predictions said it would be a big year for IPOs, Jennifer Aniston would find love, there would be social unrest over the economy, e-book usage would skyrocket, and people would make a fuss about 11/11/11.
Initial public offerings last year included Groupon, LinkedIn, Pandora, Zynga and Zipcar. Of the other predicted IPOs, Facebook’s IPO was delayed until 2012 and Skype was acquired by Microsoft.
Jennifer Aniston began a serious relationship with actor and screenwriter Justin Theroux in May 2011.
The Occupy Wall Street protest movement started in September 2011 in New York City and spread to other cities nationwide. The protests were against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, corporate greed and government corruption.
E-book usage accelerated with lower-cost e-readers and media tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as Apple’s popular iPad tablet. (See article by Publishers Weekly.)
And yes, numerologists and the general public made a big deal out of Nov. 11, 2011.
A separate list of 10 bold tech industry predictions for 2011 by IBD proved much less accurate. Only one of the 10 predictions was accurate and it was one of the few layups on the list – that Apple would launch an Apple iTunes service in the Internet cloud.

Photo: Jennifer Aniston found love, maybe her “soul mate,” in 2011. Photo from The Superficial.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wild psychic predictions for 2012

Let’s check in with a couple of psychics to see what they’re predicting for the year ahead.

Predictions for 2012 by psychic Roxanne Usleman Hulderman:
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie take a break from each other, temporarily separating.
  • Paris Hilton gets hitched.
  • Justin Bieber in a relationship gets caught red-handed with another female.
  • Chelsea Clinton pregnant.
  • Abundant rich minerals will be found in Afghanistan. These minerals will be very rare and powerful.
  • An earthquake impacts the states of Washington and California.
  • A great war between Israel and Palestine.
  • The Middle East explodes in a violent nuclear war between countries.
Predictions for 2012 by psychic Pattie Canova:
  • An upsurge of aggression, violence, murders, belief in magic, paganism, and unexpected fluctuations that seem out of our control.
  • Terrorist cells uncovered in South America.
  • Radiological breakthroughs on sonar, radar, and infrared improvements.
  • Major or fatal crises for Dick Cheney.
Photo: Nuclear blast at Bikini Atoll in 1954. See National Park Service website.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2012

For the second year in a row, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor has been selected as the celebrity most likely to die in the coming year, according to contestants playing in the dead pool.
Gabor, 94, has been in failing health for some time. entrants picked her as the No. 4 public figure most likely to die in 2010, but she moved up to No. 1 in 2011 and 2012.
Of the top 20 celebrities marked for death in 2011 by, only seven kicked the bucket last year. They included Bob Hope’s widow, Dolores Hope; former first lady Betty Ford; actor Harry Morgan; golfer Seve Ballesteros; baseball great Harmon Killebrew; journalist and author Christopher Hitchens; and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Here’s the full list of public figures predicted to die in 2012:

1. Zsa Zsa Gabor, 94
2. Etta James, 73
3. Billy Graham, 93
4. Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, 59
5. Kirk Douglas, 95
6. Robin Gibb, 62
7. Ronnie Biggs, 82
8. Gary Carter, 57
9. Penny Marshall, 68
10. Fidel Castro, 85
11. Nancy Reagan, 90
12. Run Run Shaw, 104
13. Margaret Thatcher, 86
14. Luise Rainer, 101
15. Joe Paterno, 85
16. Olivia de Havilland, 95
17. Eli Wallach, 96
18. Nelson Mandela, 93
19. Prince Philip, 90
20. Aretha Franklin, 69

The top of the list usually includes the elderly and the infirm. Here are some notable younger celebrities predicted to die this year:

69. Lindsay Lohan, 25
112. Charlie Sheen, 46
118. Courtney Love, 47
245. Mindy McCready, 36

Photo: Troubled actress Lindsay Lohan is No. 69 on the list of celebrities most likely to die in 2012. Playboy photo from I Don’t Like You In That Way.

Top 25 most popular posts from 2011 on Tech-media-tainment

The most popular posts on Tech-media-tainment in 2011 were about the Lingerie Football League, especially wardrobe malfunctions by the players.
LFL articles claimed the top four spots on a list of most-viewed 2011 stories on TMT last year.
Other popular articles included one on actress-dancer Natasha Hugger from the “De Blob 2” commercial, a porn spoof of the royal wedding, and my series on the most deadly animals in the world.
Here’s the list of the 25 most-viewed TMT articles from last year:

1. LFL wardrobe malfunctions continue (Sept. 10, 2011)
2. 5 things the Lingerie Football League needs to change (Feb. 5, 2011)
3. Lingerie Football League needs stars (July 30, 2011)
4. LFL nip slips a thing of the past (Sept. 11, 2011)
5. Pretty woman in ‘De Blob 2’ commercial: Natasha Hugger (Feb. 26, 2011)
6. Royal wedding gets spoofed by porn makers (April 29, 2011)
7. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! A review of 2010 wild animal attacks, starting with sharks (Jan. 18, 2011)
8. Photographer scores LFL wardrobe malfunction photos (Nov. 13, 2011)
9. Nip slips on the rise with celebrities, but not Lingerie Football League players (Dec. 2, 2011)
10. Lingerie Basketball League tips off (July 22, 2011)
11. The most beautiful women in the world, according to Patrick Seitzes (June 23, 2011)
12. Elephants, hippos, snakes and other threats (Jan. 22, 2011)
13. Lingerie Football League shows more butt crack than a plumbers convention (Oct. 17, 2011)
14. Top 10 animal attack movies (Jan. 29, 2011)
15. Tech-media-tainment turns 3 with another LFL wardrobe malfunction (Nov. 6, 2011)
16. Jim Corbett: Legendary hunter, author and conservationist (Feb. 23, 2011)
17. Out with Lingerie Football, in with Bikini Basketball (Feb. 6, 2011)
18. Fatal crocodile attacks are no crock (Jan. 20, 2011)
19. Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2011 (Jan. 1, 2011)
20. Being a porn actress isn’t a crime, so women shouldn’t be harassed because of it (April 3, 2011)
21. Professional pole dancing ready for prime time (April 30, 2011)
22. Top real-life targets for porn parodies (April 10, 2011)
23. More cat names for Apple to consider for the next Mac OS X release (July 21, 2011)
24. Oprah, Elvis, Berlusconi latest real people parodied in porn films (Feb. 2, 2011)
25. Cloud computing not reliable at times (Aug. 9, 2011)
Photo: Lingerie Football Player Liz Gorman of the Tampa Breeze.