Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 29, 2020

So, exactly when do we declare Samuel L. Jackson to be box-office poison?

This wonderment is prompted by the most recent theatrical bomb he’s co-starring in, The Spirit. Not that I’m blaming Jackson for that stinker; I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to, but being a fan of Will Eisner’s original, I could see the travesty coming from miles away. My only comment on that: Frank Miller needs to cut down on his cocaine intake…

Back to Jackson: I can’t remember the last time one of his headlining features was an actual hit. Let’s review his most recent non-hit parade:

- Soul Men
- Lakeview Terrace
- Jumper
- Cleaner
- 1408
- Resurrecting the Champ
- Home of the Brave
- Black Snake Moan
- Snakes on a Plane
- Freedomland
- The Man

Bombs away! Most of these were abysmal, and even the only decent one (Resurrecting) sold practically no tickets. This list stretches back to 2005, making it three years since Jackson has been in a successfully bankable motion picture. I’m not saying he was the sole reason for these failures, but the fact is that he is the one common factor.

Just about the only hits he’s been a part of during, and immediately before, this dismal streak were the Star Wars prequels. And let’s face it — Lucasfilm could have cast Gary Coleman as Mace Windu and wouldn’t have missed a beat.

I don’t get how Hollywood works anyway, but I know that plenty of other actors would have hung themselves with such a long rope of duds. Maybe Jackson is working so cheap, and still has enough reputation/recognition cachet, that he’s worth the risk for many a filmmaker? Still, at this point, I can’t see a movie release with his name on it and not automatically mark it as dead on arrival.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/29/2008 07:37pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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crashing the party
Somewhere or other, I read about the iPhone acting as a classic low-end disruptor in the smartphone space, basically a more accessible mass-market option to a BlackBerry and the ilk.

But that’s just the phone part. A couple of news items point to Apple’s slim devices disrupting other media, effectively extending the definition of a “media player”. (That’s “devices” plural, because the iPod Touch runs on the same software platform and can do essentially the same non-telecom tasks as the iPhone).

- While the e-book publishing format is expanding, and most associated with dedicated hardware like Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader, the iPhone/iTouch is actually having a more measurable impact on adoption:

Several e-book-reading programs have been created for the device, and at least two of them, Stanza from LexCycle and the eReader from Fictionwise, have been downloaded more than 600,000 times. Another company, Scroll Motion, announced this week that it would begin selling e-books for the iPhone from major publishers like Simon & Schuster, Random House and Penguin…

Publishers say these iPhone applications are already starting to generate nearly as many digital book sales as the Sony Reader, though they still trail sales of books in the Kindle format.

I don’t see how the e-book readers can compete, frankly. Why lug around an extra, oversized display screen when you can carry around your library in your pocket? Obviously screen-size is sacrificed, but most people are accustomed to reading off their phone screens by now. If anything, I see the Kindle, Reader, et al becoming niche products, for those who can’t do without large-print reading; everyone else will do their e-book reading via iPhone/iTouch. The disruption comes from including the e-book capabilities in the price of the device, versus shelling out a few hundred dollars for a separate reader.

- Videogames are the more obvious non-phone and non-music media applications that Apple is targeting (with the App Store providing a seamless pipeline for free/cheap games). In fact, it looks like the iPhone/iTouch platform is already helping to do in a previous leader in handheld gaming:

But then, set the [Sony PlayStation Portable] next to the iPhone or iPod Touch, the year’s other big winner in portable gaming, and the PSP’s hardware design suddenly looks old hat. Where’s the touchscreen? What are all these buttons for? What on earth is the point of this useless analog nub of a joystick? And why, in an age when flash memory is so cheap it practically comes in Cheerios boxes, are we still stuck with a huge, bulky, slow, and noisy optical drive? If you’re going to compete by offering a powerful hardware platform, you actually need to outperform the competition. As the iPhone steps into the portable gaming ring, it’s already got the PSP on the ropes.

Again, the disruption comes in baked-in cost savings: Why buy a separate, dedicated gaming machine if your existing phone/media player can already provide you with videogaming fun? Along with all the other media playback that the PSP does, mainly as a response to Apple’s player.

And this is on top of the music, Web access and other functions the iPhone/iTouch offers. Taken all together, it’s an impressive display of disruptive technology in digital media.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/29/2008 05:57pm
Category: Publishing, Tech, Videogames, iPhone, iPod
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