Blogs > In The Mix

Reporter Shaun Byron and Video Editor Andrew DuPont sound-off on whatever is on their minds, from politics to pop-culture, from movies to the main stream media. Local, national, world-wide? If it's in the media mix, these two are sure to have an opinion on it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Five reasons we all lose on Black Friday

Well, it's here. The most anticipated day of the year by bargain hunters and retail corporate CEO's. Black Friday. Now the Christmas season has officially officially been officially made official, every thing's great, right? No, unfortunately. Black Friday is nothing to get excited over. In fact, it's something worth despising. Here's why:

5) It's not enough... it never is...
Even if the stores make big profits today, it's not nearly enough. Then all we hear for weeks is whether or not these companies are making enough money. Are we buying enough? If not, we're made to feel guilty. Anyone who decides not spend their entire paycheck on Christmas gifts is told they are contributing to the collapse of the global economy. Unfortunately this will probably never end as long as so many companies over-invest in expansions and marketing throughout the rest of the year and then depend on big holidays sales to pay for all of it.

4) Cuing has become a sport
A few years back, big sales might get dozen or so dedicated shoppers waiting outside a store. But in recent years, something has changed. Waiting in line has almost become a sport, with some showing so much competitive motivation as to get there days ahead of time. And why is this news? It's not. But sure enough we see on the news every time a new videogame system comes out, every time a new iGadget is released, and now, every Thanksgiving. Tents, space heaters, laptops, blankets, camping chairs, all in a neat line wrapping around the front of the local Best Buy or department store, with people anxiously willing to give up hours, sometimes days of their lives, to save $100 on a computer. I get the impression some do it now for the attention, knowing there's a good chance a local news crew with be out there to film a fluff piece. They seem to like being first in line for some kind of bizarre bragging rights. But I guess you have to admire the dedication of some, willing to give up a holiday with their loved ones to sit outside in the cold. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't want to. I've never seen a sale on anything worth it.

3) The stuff you're waiting for isn't worth it
I worked in retail for years. Books, electronics, movies, music. You name it, I sold it. And if I didn't, odds are a friend of mine did. A plethora of sources can confirm a lot, if not all, of the "doorbuster" items being sold for crazy prices, are garbage. Whether they're last years models or off-brand products, odds are these items are inventory surplus trying to be unloaded. Now that Black Friday rabid shoppers have become an anticipated yearly staple, what better way to get rid of the cheap junk than to mark it down to clearance prices and call it a deal? Guess how much of it gets returned. Sure, there are some decent items that get a discount, but nothing you couldn't find on Amazon or sites like

2) So much for the holiday spirit
It never fails... Every year there are stories about the long lines, followed by stories about the fights that break out when there aren't enough ePods or SUNY flatscreens to go around. As fun as some people make waiting in lines in the cold for hours, it seems to grate on the nerves of most. Then things explode. Shouting matches, fist fights. And all over Christmas gifts?

1) People die.
Two people shot in a Toys R' Us in California, while in New York, a Wal-mart employee was trampled and a pregnant woman injured by shoppers who even pushed their way passed emergency workers trying to help. How can an obsession with consumption be so absorbing that even the death of a man cannot stop people from pushing to try and get a cheap TV? This isn't a game. This isn't a competition. Lives have been destroyed or ended entirely because we're hyped up to shop today.


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Friday, November 21, 2008

Should there be a Dark Knight sequel? Five reasons the answer is "no"

I doubt anyone can really argue that The Dark Knight is not a phenomenal movie. As far as sequels go, it's all anyone could ask for. It took the story established in Batman Begins and took it to the next level. Christian Bale was at his best. The story pulled no punches, and it showcased what it quite possible Heath Ledgers greatest performance. The ending leaves the door wide open for a third film, but should one be made? Director Chris Nolan is not committing just yet. For what it's worth, Nolan is one of my favorite directors, and has been since I first saw Memento. As rumors of potential villain casting persists and fan-made posters begin to fill the Internet, Nolan himself has been quoted as saying "I have to ask the question: How many good third movies in a franchise can people name?”

He has a good point. Movies that were perhaps not originally intended to be a trilogy end up running the story into the ground by the third time around. It's not just that the first or second film may be too hard an act to follow, sometimes everyone, from the cast to the fans, grow tired of the same thing, and a lack of creative energy results in films that may succeed commercially, but are ultimately regarded as failures.

Even though I really enjoyed The Dark Knight, here are five reason why a third Nolan-Bale Batman film should not be made.

5.) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The original director drops out, only one cast member returns, and the plot completely contradicts the previous film, which just happens to be legendary. A perfect example of when well enough should have been left alone. Now there's a TV series which complete ignores the story in the third movie, much like the rest of the world.
Fatal Flaw: Pointless sequel with gimmicky characters

4.) The Matrix Revolutions
Okay, so the second one wasn't all the great either, but it could have been had the third not dragged this groud-breaking film series into the depths of crappiness. Love it or hate it, nobody can deny the influence the first film has had on film making. So what went wrong? The sequel turned the notch up, adding increasingly complex plot devices and characters into an already convoluted story. The subtle symbolism and allegory presented in the first film ended up being a club the Wachowski brothers beat the audience over the head with by the time the trilogy wrapped up. And what are we treated to for the grand finale? After an entire film building up the idea that Neo and Smith are equals, we get to watch them fight... and fight... and fight... just like we did in the first film... and the second film. With all the pretension stripped away, all we've got is a bunch of complicated philosophical and moral conflicts settled by another long, CGI-powered fistfight.
Fatal Flaw: A shallow story trying to appear deep

3.) Spider-man 3
Speaking more directly to comic book films, Spider-man 3 really shows how a good thing can go bad fast. The first two Spider-man films were great adapatations. Despite the relative absurdity of the plots, the characters were convincing in context. Then the third film rolled around... and Sam Raimi made the same mistake that has condemed other comic book films: TOO MANY VILLIANS!!! The first two films built up a major conflict between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, but the third threw in the Sandman AND Venom as well. Venom deserved his own movie, to be played by someone other than Topher Grace and not the afterthought treatment he got in this film. Taking a legendary villian and royally screwing them up is the easiest way to allienate fans. And of course there was dancing Emo-Peter...
Fatal Flaw: Too much of everything

2.) X-3 (X-Men III)
Sequels are expected to up the ante, but when the series already involves nearly two dozen characters, it is very easy to go overboard. This movie did just that, adding dozens of nameless characters as well as so many well-known ones that the real fight ends up being one for screentime. Then they took the Phoenix Saga, one of the most well-known stories in Marvel Comics history, and cram it into the film with everything else. Then there's characters like Nightcrawler, an awesome addition to X-2, that inexplicably disappeared in the third film without even a moment's notice. The finished product is just a big mess sold on the premise that people would pay just to see live-action versions of other famous characters, and nothing else.
Fatal Flaw: New characters trying to make up for a terrible story

1.) Batman Forever
It only got worse from here. So bad they had to reboot the entire series. It's unlikely Nolan would let go of the new Batman series now anyway, but this, like Terminator 3, shows what happens someone takes over for a more talented director. Rumor has it, the Riddler will be the next villain if Nolan makes a third film. With the darker tone these movies have taken, Jim Carrey's take on the role should be completely abandoned. I'm confident that would happen, just look how the two handled Two-Face in different ways.

And if nothing else, one word could ruin everything like it did here: ROBIN
Fatal Flaw: New director, cheesy characters, Robin, Robin, Robin and Robin

But I could be wrong. Just because the series goes on does not mean it will only get worse. Sure, it helps if you keep the same cast/director and have a story in mind long before production begins... but if you need movies that argue "yes" to making a third Batman, how about:

- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Return of the Jedi
- Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
- The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
- Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3)
- Once upon a time in Mexico (Part 3 of "El Mariachie" trilogy)

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Monday, November 17, 2008

An unearthed Beatles' track?!

I was born too late to experience the onslaught of The Beatles to America.

My earliest memories of the famous four pretty much are relegated to hearing my mom play Rubber Soul (still my favorite album) and Revolver on the record player (and then CD player when I was a teenager).

I was hooked.

Now comes news of the 14-minute "Carnival of Light" track and that it will finally see the light of day, at least, according to Paul McCartney.

According to reports, it is said to feature distorted electric guitars, discordant sound effects, a church organ, and gargling sounds, as well as McCartney and John Lennon screaming phrases like "Barcelona" and "Are you all right?"

I can't help but wonder if it's truly a piece of avant-garde experimentation or just a bunch of noise that was combined following an acid trip.

I can't wait to hear it, although, there is a sneaking suspicion I have that maybe there was a good reason this track wasn't released.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Snoopy on the Web

It's amazing how much content is being transferred or finding new life on the Web these days.
In recent weeks, it's been announced by Craig Schulz, Charles Schulz's son, that 20 Peanuts digital shorts will be made available online.
Schulz is president of Creative Associates, which approved and manages all of the licensing for Peanuts-related products.
In interviews, he said the webisodes are an attempt to get children to turn to the comic strip in books and newspapers.
I can't help but be happy about that. I just hope enough kids are willing to get their mom or dad to pay the .99 per webisode or $7.99 for the season pass.
Another positive move toward the Internet and the entertainment world is MGM talking to the folks at YouTube about featuring some of their flicks on their site.
Not a bad way to get some of the best and brightest stars of yesterday to an audience who might not know just how great some of those old musicals from the 40s and 50s are.
These types of marketing initiatives that show just how much technology has changed our lives in the last 20 years.
It's also nice to know more is being done to showcase the best artistic efforts of our culture, rather than just thinking of the Web as a quick way to get porn or order airline tickets.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Did Oprah rock the vote?

Yesterday I got an e-mail with pictures of celebrity houses.
One of those homes was Oprah's mansion.
Later that night, she was guest starring on "30 Rock."
Then today, I see the transcripts from an interview on Fox News' Web site questioning if Oprah is turning red states blue.
I always find celebrities stumping for politicians to be annoying.
I'm sure there are people out there who base their political views on what their favorite actor, actress or entertainer does or promotes.
I just can't understand why.
While I hold nothing against Oprah, I do find her hard to stomach and can't understand the attraction people have toward that type of programming.
So, for argument's sake, let's take a celebrity I do like.
Bruce Springstein is a favorite of mine. I enjoy his music. I'd pay to see him in concert.
However, I wouldn't base my vote on what he has to say politically (that is in no way to say I'm a card carrying member of the GOP either).
Celebrities to me are just people who got lucky in life.
Some have worked hard and benefited from that work.
Others, i.e. Paris Hilton, were born into wealth and privilege. That has led them to get record deals and television shows.
Either way, we don't know them personally. We don't know what they are like when the cameras are off.
How many of them know what it is like to struggle with bills in an economy that is going down the tubes?
How many of them care about their fans that pay through the nose to see their movies or listen to their music?
How many of them take the time to read a newspaper or go online to study up on the issues?
And how many of them just blindly cast their support behind a candidate because it's the fashionable thing to do?
I'm glad to hear so many people went out and voted, but I hope they did so by really digging into the issues, rather than what Oprah or Chuck Norris had to say.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Well, the election is over. Finally. No more robo-calls, no more attack ads, no more solicitations for donations.

The big story is obviously the historic victory by President-elect Barack Obama, but on a local level there were a few surprising upsets. The biggest of these was Democratic candidate Gary Peters' victory over incumbent Republican Joe Knollenberg to represent Michigan's 9th District in the US House.

With Obama's sweeping victory throughout the state and open support of Peters (who had participated in numerous events for Obama prior to the election), the election took a quick turn and Peters ended up with a comfortable 9-point lead. What struck me as odd though was the reaction following Knollenberg's concession:

“This wasn’t about Joe Knollenberg,” his aide Nate Bailey said. “It was about people not voting for Republicans this year.”


What about...

Peter Hoekstra (2nd District, won by 27 points)
Vernon Ehlers (3rd District, won by 26 points)
David Camp (4th District, won by 26 points)
Frederick Upton (6th District, won by 20 points)
Mike Rogers (8th District, won by 17 points)
Candice Miller (10th District, won by 35 points)
Thaddeus McCotter (11th District, won by 6 points)
L. Brooks Patterson (Oakland County Executive, won by roughly 18 points)
Michael Bouchard (Oakland County Sheriff, won by roughly 20 points)

All Republicans, all incumbents.

As an example, Miller won her district by 121,329 votes when the included counties sided with Obama by a total of 35, 158 votes. That's a lot of people who voted for a Democrat for President but had no problem voting for a Republican as their district's rep.

So make no mistake about it, Knollenberg's loss was all about him.

Figures from CNN and WXYZ.

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