Archive for June, 2012


Tim Grierson Reviews ‘Madagascar 3’ & ‘Prometheus’


Photo by Dream Work
“Madagascar 3”

The “Madagascar” series may not be quite as beloved as the “Toy Story” or “Shrek” films, but with its third installment, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” it’s hard to argue that it’s not still a lively, likable franchise. The new film finds lion Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (voiced by Chris Rock), and the rest of the gang joining a rundown European circus in the hope of landing the interest of an American investor, which will bring them back to their home in the Central Park Zoo. With strong voice work from the likes of Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain, and Martin Short as performing animals trying to recapture their circus’ old glory, “Madagascar 3” will play better with kids than with adults thanks to its slapstick gags, but it’s a consistently amusing ride with enough genuine sentiment underneath to keep parents engaged.

Though it stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Charlize Theron, the real draw of “Prometheus” is its utterly extraordinary visual design, overseen by director Ridley Scott. Sadly, this “Alien” prequel isn’t as striking from a narrative perspective, bringing together a crew of scientists on a remote planet that may hold the key to humanity’s origins but most certainly possesses some nasty extraterrestrials. Fassbender is perfection as a super-intelligent, slightly haughty android — he could be a distant relative to the HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — but much of the rest of the cast suffer from underwritten roles. All in all, “Prometheus” pleases the eye more than the brain, but its elegant tension is handled so masterfully that you may not mind the plot holes too terribly.

Generations clash to very little comedic effect in “Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding,” which casts Jane Fonda as a die-hard hippie living in Woodstock, N.Y., who receives a visit from her daughter (Catherine Keener), a conservative New York City lawyer going through a midlife crisis. This sets the stage for lots of very obvious friction between the two women, who haven’t spoken in decades. (Don’t worry: Their conflict will be resolved in the most predictable, feel-good ways possible.) The leads are both fine actors, but the film’s hokey execution succeeds in stripping them of their usual warmth and grace. If the familial reconciliation isn’t stultifying enough, there’s also a generic coming-of-age story line with which to contend, although Elizabeth Olsen (as Keener’s prickly daughter) at least cuts through the cutesiness some with a grounded performance. Still, don’t give “Peace” a chance.

The significantly charming comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed” provides budding indie star Mark Duplass with his richest performance to date. Aubrey Plaza and Jake M. Johnson play journalists investigating an odd classified ad seeking a companion for time travel. Their search leads them to Kenneth (Duplass), who seems like a sweet enough fellow, except for the fact that he swears he can leap through time. Wistful and sincere when it’s not hilarious, “Safety Not Guaranteed” morphs from a film about lovable losers into an unexpectedly touching story of second chances. Previously, Duplass has been deeply empathetic in mumblecore films such as “Humpday,” but there are more layers to his portrayal here, leaving us unsure until the very end just how imbalanced his character may actually be.

Another indie hero, Greta Gerwig, doesn’t fare as well in her star vehicleLola Versus.” She plays Lola, an emotionally disheveled New Yorker left reeling after her fiancé dumps her. What transpires is a fairly predictable roundelay of hipster self-absorption and romantic insecurity, but Gerwig gives it a little heft thanks to her dependably likable presence. Lola may be an indecisive, whiny mess, but the actor’s nimble intelligence goes a long way toward suggesting the mature woman Lola could someday become.

Give Robert Pattinson kudos for stretching. Most identified as Edward from the “Twilight” series, the 26-year-old heartthrob mixes things up in “Bel Ami,” an intriguing but unsatisfying period drama. The soulless, impoverished Georges (Pattinson) wants to enter upper-class Parisian society, so he utilizes his one talent: seducing wealthy women (including Kristin Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman, and Christina Ricci). Based on the Guy de Maupassant novel, the satiric “Bel Ami” struggles to balance its political intrigue and bedroom shuffling, but while his supporting cast glides along with the film’s tart tone, Pattinson is a bit blank. He’s playing a callous manipulator, but his dramatic emptiness feels less like a choice and more like a permanent affliction.

With his first films, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Happiness,” writer-director Todd Solondz established himself as a sardonic chronicler of outsiders. Nearly two decades later, his new film “Dark Horse” remains very much in that milieu, but this comedy is one of his most heartbreaking. Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a lazy 30-something nerd who still lives with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow), but perhaps his luck will change after he gets involved with a beautiful but depressed young woman (Selma Blair). “Dark Horse” is an observant portrait of suburban failure, and Gelber is terrific at making Abe an angry, self-deluded fool who remains oddly sympathetic. The entire cast is nicely attuned to Solondz’s deadpan, melancholy vibe, but best of all may be Donna Murphy as Abe’s mousy co-worker who, like everyone in this film, seems to be drowning in quiet desperation.

Paul Williams was a popular 1970s songwriter and performer, writing hits for the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, and the Muppets. So what happened to him? Director Stephen Kessler decided to find out, tracking down his boyhood idol and convincing him to be the subject of a documentary. The result, “Paul Williams: Still Alive,” is undeniably affectionate, but be warned: Kessler is as much the star of this film as Williams is, offering a running commentary and endlessly kvetching about whether Williams likes him. Some may find it endearing, but I confess I soon grew tired of Kessler’s passive-aggressive routine. There’s a great documentary to be made about the uncomfortable relationship between adoring, needy filmmaker and reticent, faded subject. Unfortunately, “Paul Williams: Still Alive” isn’t it.


Casting Directors Are Official for Four New CBS Series


Photo by Kevin Parry
Sheila Jaffe

CBS has hired casting directors for four of its new primetime series for the 2012-13 television season, including three dramas and one comedy, Back Stage has confirmed.

Mark Saks is casting “Elementary,” a drama set in New York City that offers a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Jonny Lee Miller stars as the famous detective, with Lucy Liu as sidekick Joan Watson. Saks was hired for the series after casting the pilot, which was also shot in New York.

Sheila Jaffe and Gail Goldberg are casting “Vegas,” a drama starring Dennis Quaid as Ralph Lamb, a cowboy who became a Las Vegas sheriff in the ’60s and spent the next 20 years making enemies in the mob. The series is based on a true story and also stars Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jason O’Mara. Shoot dates are TBD in New Mexico. Jaffe and Goldberg cast the pilot as well.

The new legal drama “Made in Jersey,” starring Janet Montgomery as a working-class woman who uses her street smarts to compete with her colleagues at a top law firm, will be cast by Julie Tucker of Tucker/Meyerson Casting. In addition to filling in the rest of the cast, one of Tucker’s first tasks is to recast a key role that was played by Pablo Schreiber in the pilot. Tucker also cast the pilot – formerly titled “Baby Big Shot” – with her casting partner Ross Meyerson. The series will shoot in New York, but production dates are TBD.

Julie Ashton is casting “Partners,” the new comedy starring David Krumholtz and Michael Urie as two lifelong friends, one straight and one gay, who become business partners. The cast also includes Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh. The series will be shot in Los Angeles, but dates have not been confirmed. Ashton cast the pilot episode, which was also shot in L.A.



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Air Yeezy II Releases, Finally!

Washington, DC (Friday, June, 8, 2012) – On Saturday, June 9th, the highly publicized and one of the most sought after sneakers of the year, the “Yeezy II’s” will be available at one location of DTLR in the DMV area. As the company is expecting large volumes of customers to come in from all surrounding locations of the Washington, DC location where the shoes will only be sold, they are taking pre cautions to make their customers experience a bit easy.


Saturday morning, individuals have until 7:30 am to arrive and get in line to receive a raffle ticket. The raffle will begin promptly at 8:00 am. By using this method, everyone is given an equal opportunity of being able to purchase the limited amount of “Yeezy II’s”.


When asked about DTLR being one of the select few retailers to sell the “Yeezy II’s” June Sanders (DTLR Shoe Buyer) stated “We are very happy that Nike considers DTLR an elite retailer to sell the “Yeezy II’s”. We had a great success when the “Yeezy I’s” were released so we anticipate the same success and excitement the second time around. We pride ourselves on quality and providing the customer with the best shopping experience”.


If you are interested in purchasing the “Yeezy II’s”, the DTLR location is located at Senator Square 3960 Minnesota Ave. , Washington, DC 20019. Please note that this will be the only DTLR location in the DMV area that will be selling the sneaker.


Sean Parker And Shawn Fanning’s Airtime Finally Launches ” All Things Digital”

Sean Parker And Shawn Fanning’s Airtime Finally Launches (AllThingsD) Airtime, the next act from Napster co-founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, launched to the public Tuesday. NYT / Bits Their start-up lets people use webcams to connect with their Facebook friends or random strangers. Users can search for chat partners based on their interests, shared social connections and location. Once connected, they can talk, type messages or even watch YouTube videos together. Wired / Gadget Lab Airtime doesn’t require a download, and uses Facebook Connect to help users video chat with friends and complete strangers. Users must log into to use the service, a factor that could impede Airtime’s growth as a social tool. TechCrunch You could call it a more fun version of Skype, a one-on-one Google+ Hangouts with your Facebook graph, or the evolution of Chatroulette. VentureBeat But, as you might remember, Chatroulette had a serious “penis problem.” The more random people you connected with, the greater the likelihood that your eyes would be assaulted by the sudden sight of some stranger’s male organ. White Chatroulette gave birth to some great videos, the penis problem essentially killed Chatroulette’s once-big dreams. Forbes / The Not-So Private Parts One way Airtime will monitor the site is by taking “snapshots of users periodically to ensure site safety,” says a spokesperson. NYT When Americans first started exploring the online world en masse in the early 1990s, many of them headed for AOL’s chat rooms to connect with other curious strangers. But since then, the appeal of random online encounters has faded with the rise of sites like Facebook, where most people tend to interact with people they already know. Now a few services are trying to recreate the spontaneity of that earlier era, adding a modern twist: live video chats.

A Message From The Gang That Used To Work At GOOD (FishbowlLA)
By means of a new, temporary Tumblr page, the half-dozen editorial employees laid off last Friday at GOOD (along with two more who took severance) want you to know that they’re OK. CJR / The News Frontier The group of ex-staffers are now at work putting together a magazine tentatively titled Tomorrow, which they will raise money for on Kickstarter. Poynter / MediaWire Max Schorr isn’t interested in engaging in what he calls “he said/she said back and forth” with the former staffers of GOOD, the magazine he co-founded that laid off most of its editorial staff last Friday. Over email, Schorr politely expresses great respect toward the employees who’ve left and a vague sense of what’s next for GOOD: “At the end of the day, we just want to create solutions that work for the world and live up to our organization’s potential through the work we create vs. anything we could share here in type,” Schorr writes.


Which Come First, Empolyee Or Customer?

Should You Put Your Customers Second?


It’s a mantra so often used that we don’t think twice about it:  the customer is always right.  However, most us would agree that it’s OK to gently let go of customers/clients who are eating up time, energy and resources and at the end of the day don’t contribute much to your bottom line. You could argue the same with employees, but the latter just may be the result of your putting your customers first.

Flipping the notion on its head that customers should be your number-1 priority, there have been dozens of books and hundreds of speeches that make a very strong point that if your employees are not feeling the love, getting trained and mentored, and  if morale is low and turnover high, then there’s a trickle-down effect – dripping right down to your customers and financials.  There are hundreds of case studies of companies that tie high employee satisfaction to increased sales. What most companies don’t agree on is what it means to put your employees first.  Does it mean that employees should be happy at work or happy to work? To whistle while they work or not complain about long hours?  It gets messy when you have to define what Employees First means.

In previous blogs, I have pointed to one word that, in my opinion, is the most important employee attribute and the more you have of it, the more successful your organization will be: Passion.  It’s hard to see it in the hiring process and difficult to teach, but when an employee has passion, it’s magical.

How you stoke employee passions in your corporate culture should be a never-ending focus for anyone in a leadership role.  But putting your customers second can be dangerous, so tread lightly.  Employee and customer satisfaction are like water and air: we need both to survive.  Customers and employees are inextricably linked.  There’s only one thing better than a passionate customer:  the employees who serve that customer.

– Diane Schwartz

Twitter: @dianeschwartz


Tweet Your Foot In Your Mouth?

The Tweet You Wish You Could Take Back

I’ve read countless interviews in which a notable politician, businessperson, musician, actor, writer or artist claims he or she has no regrets. They wouldn’t change a thing if they could.

I don’t buy it. I regret what I had for lunch, for instance; I should have had a salad. I shouldn’t have stayed up last night to watch that depressing episode of Mad Men. That was definitely a mistake.

If there are some self-deluded types out there who truly have no regrets, well, they must not be on Twitter. If you have a Twitter account, you have regrets.

We’ve all had that experience of firing off an e-mail we wish we could take back or, at the very least, of choosing “reply all” by mistake. But a stray e-mail is nothing compared to the tweet that got away.

Every day, it seems, there are reports about a person or company that tweeted something idiotic or downright hateful. Today, a tech company named ASUS sent out a tweet with an image of a woman working at a tech convention, paired with a juvenile comment about the woman’s appearance. You can bet that ASUS regrets that tweet.

You’ve probably already tweeted something that doesn’t reflect well on you and/or your organization. It was late, you felt that overwhelming urge to share and out it went. But it was probably a small thing. We’ve all been there. What you need to watch out for is the emotional tweet, or the tweet you think is utterly hilarious. This kind of tweet—the tweet you wish you could take back—can derail your career, embarrass your co-workers, provide ammunition to your competitors, affect a stock price.

You need to develop your own kind of inner alert that will go off when you’re typing out a tweet that may offend people you don’t want to offend. You don’t want that alert to go off after you’ve sent the tweet—that’s where painful regret begins. And until you’ve figured out what your inner alert sounds like, type slowly.

—Steve Goldstein

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI 


Bloomberg Soft Drink Ban Becomes Success

Bloomberg’s Proposed Soft Drink Ban

Already a PR Success

By Sahil Patel, PR News

Regardless of where you stand in the debate over whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large soft drinks in New York City is within his or any local government’s jurisdiction, there’s no doubt the proposal has driven conversations connecting soft drinks to obesity and poor health. And in that sense, it can already be counted as a PR success.

On May 30, Bloomberg introduced his proposal to amend New York City’s health code to prevent vendors in the city from selling soft drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces. The ban would apply to restaurants, street-side food carts, delis, movie theaters, sports stadiums and arenas, but not convenience, grocery or drug stores, where such drinks are mostly sold in bottles and cans.

On May 31, two prominent providers of soft drinks, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, hit back at the mayor’s proposal. “New Yorkers expect and deserve better than this. They can make their own choices about the beverages they purchase,” said Coca-Cola in a statement. “Public health issues cannot be effectively addressed through a narrowly focused and misguided ban,” said McDonald’s in a statement.

It’s no surprise that these companies would be against such a ban and release strong statements saying as much. But that’s beside the point. If Bloomberg’s goal was to raise awareness of the connection between soft drinks and obesity, then he has hit his mark, whether or not the ban goes into effect.

Follow Sahil Patel: @sizpatel

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