Friday Video – Foxy Shazam, “I Like It”

Click here to listen to Foxy Shazam’s The Church of Rock and Roll on Spotify

All right, so there is no video to speak of here – all you see is a cover of the single. But we had to highlight this track because it’s AWESOME, a surefire Single of the Year candidate…if we still made lists like that.

The first single from their new album The Church of Rock and Roll, “I Like It” isn’t the biggest sounding Foxy Shazam song ever recorded (though not by much), but it sums up their passions and goals better than pretty much anything they’ve done up to this point. Big, Queen-like harmonies: check. Slightly off-kilter arrangement: check. Swagger: check. Sex: checkmate. Good luck getting that so-simple-it’s-brilliant chorus of “You’ve got the biggest black ass I’ve ever seen / And I like it, I like it” out of your heads between now and Monday morning. The one question is: how on earth are these guys from Cincinnati? They arrested two guys in Cincy for holding hands once.


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Budweiser hits The Big Time

Cool new video from Budweiser.


Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to February

For as much abuse as January receives for being a bad movie magnet, February isn’t any better, especially when you factor in the bombardment of cheesy chick flicks being unloaded in time for Valentine’s Day. In fact, with the exception of maybe one or two releases, there isn’t anything even worth getting excited about – unless you’re a really big “Star Wars” fan, in which case, keep reading. January was by no means a great month for moviegoers, but it was a heckuva lot better than what February has in store.


Who: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer, Ciarán Hinds and Emma Shorey
What: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
When: February 3rd
Why: There’s no way in hell that I’m going to see this movie – not because it doesn’t look like it might be good, but rather because there are few things that scare me as unconditionally as creepy old ghost women from horror movies. (Despite really enjoying last year’s “Insidious,” I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.) And that’s a shame, because “The Woman in Black” looks like it might actually rise above the typical horror trash that populates this time of year (see: “The Devil Inside”). Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel of the same name (which was also turned into a successful stage play), the script was written by Matthew Vaughn’s go-to scribe Jane Goldman and stars Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role. The actor undoubtedly had plenty of offers on the table, so the fact that he chose this Hammer horror film certainly speaks of its potential.


Who: Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Dane DeHaan and Michael Kelly
What: Three friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery, only for their friendship to be tested when one of them embraces his dark side.
When: February 3rd
Why: I didn’t even know about this movie until a few months ago when a friend sent me a link to the trailer, but consider me cautiously intrigued. Though I’m just as sick of the whole found footage fad as everyone else, “Chronicle” is set up in a way that it doesn’t have to adhere to the normal rules of the genre. For starters, since the main characters have superpowers (namely, telekinesis), they can put the camera pretty much anywhere they want, allowing for a more dynamic range of shots beyond the trademark shaky cam. The trailer also seems to suggest that there will be a healthy dose of action, so as long as the story isn’t a complete mess and director Josh Trank can keep the movie’s mystery a secret, this superhero “Cloverfield” could be the first surprise hit of the year.

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Blu-ray Review: Dream House

Months before its late-September release date, we received notification that “Dream House” would be screened in our area. And then, at the last minute, the screening was pulled. The screening for a movie that starred Daniel Craig, Rachael Weisz, and Naomi Watts…was pulled. That is not a good sign, to say the least. It speaks to a sudden lack of confidence in your product, and the studio has gone into damage control mode in order to preserve whatever box office potential it may still have.

Good call, as it turns out, though that’s not to say that “Dream House” didn’t have a wealth of promise. Will Atenton (Craig) quits his job to spend more time with his wife (Weisz) and kids while writing the Great American Novel, but almost as soon as he’s home, his family is threatened by a mysterious stalker. His neighbor Ann (Watts) is sympathetic, but she’s the only one. Once Will discovers that a mass murder took place in his house, he decides to find out more about the crime in question, only to discover that the trail leads directly back to him.

That’s a pretty damn good setup – the only question is where you go from there, and that is where “Dream House” loses its way. There are a myriad of paths the story could have taken, but damned if they didn’t take the simplest option available. Seriously, the explanation for why things went down the way they did is just head-slappingly dumb, and it kills us that we cannot explain why. Add just one more layer to the story, and this could be one of those “Jacob’s Ladder”-type movies where you never really know what is real and what is fantasy. Instead, they took the easy way out. Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple. This, however, is not one of those times, not when you begin the movie by pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes. If your movie is high-concept, then see it through to the very end.

Anyone who grew up watching M. Night Shyamalan movies – and are therefore always on the look for the hook or the twist – will not miss the clues in “Dream House,” which form a veritable trail of bread crumbs. Hopefully the three leads will make another movie down the road, because goodness knows that under better circumstances, they could create something special. (Universal 2012)

Click to buy “Dream House” from Amazon


Engagement Party: The Story Behind the Google+ Stats

I was sitting at home the other night, catching up on the latest episode of “Parks and Recreation” with my girlfriend when the above Galaxy Nexus commercial ran in the pre-run slot. In case you aren’t the video-watching type, the ad starts with the words “It’s your social network, all mixed together. With Galaxy Nexus by Samsung, now you can organize your contacts by circles, like you do in real life.” Despite the fact that I’m an avid nerd and have written about Google+ on several occasions, I’m still not clear on whether the phone allows you to organize your existing social network or if the commercial is just trying to hype Google+. In fact, Google+ is only mentioned as a sidenote to Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Why the ambiguity? Because Google+ isn’t a selling point.

A few days after I saw that commercial — which has been airing since December — Google announced that it now has 90 million unique users worldwide. That number far surpasses most of the third-party estimates for the service (comScore had Google+ just over 66 million users in November) so a lot of people are throwing around words like “impressive,” “amazing,” and “astounding growth.” To me, it is none of these things. Let’s face it, Google+ had a ton of hype leading up to launch. It is, after all, a Google product. Unlike Buzz and Wave, Google’s failed social projects, Google+ had a clear and consistent purpose. Let’s also not forget that one of the most discussed topics in the tech industry today is who will take down Facebook. Everyone is waiting for Goliath to fall and Google+ was the first serious contender. With all of those things in mind, I think 90 million is a pretty reasonable turnout.

But frankly, even 90 million doesn’t matter, because 90 million is just the number of unique users signed up for Google+. Those 90 million people are not on Google+ every day. I would guess a fair number of them have only been on Google+ once, and they haven’t gone back. The numbers I really want to see are about the world’s engagement with Google+, that is, how many people are using the service on a regular basis? Larry Page might be “super excited” about 90 million, but he’s less than thrilled to share real engagement numbers. The best he could say was, “I have some amazing data to share there for the first time: +users are very engaged with our products — over 60% of them engage daily, and over 80% weekly.”

As with the Verizon ad I mentioned, it’s the wording here that counts. There is really no reason for Page to tag “our products” on the end of his engagement statement unless that was exactly what he meant. Google+ users are using other Google products at the 60 percent daily, 80 percent weekly margins. Of course, he won’t confirm that, and neither will anyone else at Google. But why word things the way he did? If +users were actually engaged with the service at the levels Page is talking about, he’d be a good bit more than “super excited” to share the news. Those would be some impressive numbers, and I would happily agree that Google+ is showing “astounding growth.” Those numbers would, by percentage, be higher than engagement at Facebook.

Shortly after Page’s “super excited” announcement, Google altered its sign-up process to include forced entry into Google+. Want a Gmail account? You now have a Google+ account, too. I hardly need to say that this is indicative of disingenuous assessment of user engagement. With the new integration of social into Google’s search, it’s no wonder engagement — with other Google products — looks so good. Google has also made opting-out of the social project more complicated than it has been in the past. It looks like I can delete my Google+ profile and all of the associated features or I can keep it. No middle ground, and it’s worth noting that I can’t do this opting out until I’ve already opted-in.

The strangest part of all of this to me is that this seems very unlike Google. I have always loved Google for its open policy on the kinds of things I’m sharing and not sharing, participating and not participating in. As with any web service, usage implies a certain level of acquiescence with data sharing, but at least I felt like I had some options for limiting the extent to which that data was being shared. These recent developments around Google+ leave me with a super foul taste in my mouth, Larry, and it’s not one I’m likely to forget any time soon.