Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good Bye to The Sound Cincinnati... sort of

The Best Station in Town Gets Harder to Listen To

Out of all the music stations in Cincinnati, the only one that could get me to turn off the iPod and listen to something live was The Sound. Sadly, this past weekend it stopped broadcasting on analogue radio and is now only available on HD radio and online.

Alternative radio in Cincinnati never really seemed to find a home. Back in the day 107.1 used to be the station to listen to if you wanted a break from top 40. It played a good mix of alternative rock and was pretty much the place to go if you wanted to hear about up and coming bands. It seemed like a solid kick in the mouth when it turned into Kiss FM and played yet more top 40. The only plus side was that unlike Q102, Kiss's top 40 didn't drop out any instance of "rap" that might appear in a song.

Since this happened just as I was leaving for college, it took me four years to discover that alt-rock was still alive in Cincinnati, except now it was on 97.3. I'd gotten used to that when one day I turned on my radio and heard country music. It honestly took me a few songs to realize that they weren't playing a few "country sounding" rock songs but full on country.

Fortunately, it wasn't too hard to learn that it the alt rock was now on 94.9, which was now called "The Sound," since the station had a pretty big TV and billboard ad campaign announcing the move. On the other hand, their logo didn't really do much do suggest what kind of music they played. Previous alt-rock stations had an "edgy" look to them, whereas The Sound looked like it was a smooth jazz/adult contemporary station. Observe.

Anyway, I'd gotten used to it on 94.9 when once again I tune in one afternoon and find them playing something that was not alt-rock. This time it was NASCAR racing. Apparently in a less publicized move, the station owners had decided to switch it back over to 97.3. This time, I had to rely on word of mouth to find out where it'd gone.

Then this past weekend, same thing happened again. I turn on the radio, and it's playing country. This time it was blatantly country, not the bluegrass/rock sort of stuff that kind of toes the line. I had to fiddle around on the internet to find out what happened this time. I'd hoped it just changed to another frequency, but as you can see on the above graphic, it now moved to HD radio... 

You can see my frustration here. NOBODY has HD radio. When I had to replace my car radio a few months back, new radios were only "HD ready" meaning that you could get an HD radio unit easily added, but you couldn't pick up HD stations as-is. Right now I'm shopping for a new car (yeah, I know. I probably should have held off on getting the radio since presumably the car would come with a new one). Among the features cars advertise are built in satellite radio, bluetooth and an auxiliary jack to listen to your MP3 player on. I have yet to see one that touts the fact it comes with HD radio.

So basically, this means that unless I'm sitting down at a computer, I can't listen to it, which is problematic because pretty much the only time I am listening to radio is when I'm in my car. Hopefully another station will pick up the slack and broadcast alt-rock on a frequency I can pick up in the greater Cincinnati area. Until then it looks like I'm sticking to my iPod, with the occasional foray onto NPR, WEBN and Q102.

Friday, May 15, 2009

9 vs. Nine

Today on Quicktime I came across the trailer for the new Rob Marshall film, Nine. From what I can tell of the two minutes of footage provided, it looks like it should be a welcome addition to the winter movie season. Not to mention it is refreshing to see musicals that are something more than just a rock band's greatest hits CD acted, and it's nice to see something that has more energy than recent bland adaptations such as Sweeney Tood or Rent.

Just one small problem, since last summer trailers have been running for a joint project between Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, (director of Nightwatch and Wanted), called 9. This one revolves around some sort of dolls roaming around a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

There's nothing to stop two people from using the same name for their movie. David Cronenberg and Paul Haggis both released movies called Crash, (one was about sex and car wrecks, the other about the way peoples lives intersect with others). Then there's Gladiator, a title shared by the Russell Crowe Roman epic and a Cuba Gooding Jr. film that people always think is going to be the Russell Crowe movie when they see it in their onscreen cable guide. 

However, these movies were released years apart from their fellow namesakes so when it comes to promoting it, there isn't much confusion. On the other hand, 9 and Nine are both being released within months of each other. 

So is anybody going to budge? Usually somebody does. In 1998, Alex Proyas' film Dark City was forced to go through several name changes according to the bottom of this article. First, producers of the film Mad City complained it sounded too similar to their movie, so it was changed to Dark World, then Spielberg told them to change it because it sounded too similar to Lost World, so it got changed to Dark Empire, until somebody (George Lucas, supposedly) told them to change it. Of course by this time Mad City bombed and was forgotten, so the name went back to the first choice.

This is also the case with new James Cameron movie Avatar, the cinematic piece of vaporware that he's been talking about making for years and is now apparently actually getting underway. He apparently told the producers of the film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender to simply shorten the title down to The Last Airbender to avoid confusion, even though the latter is a popular Nickelodeon series that debuted in 2005... long before Cameron's movie was due to hit screens. 

As for the two "Nines," it isn't clear who'd have more clout. The Rob Marshall musical is based on an Broadway musical (albeit a somewhat obscure one) so for marketing purposes it only makes sense to keep the original name. However, it's also possible this film might be aimed more towards the art house crowd and therefore not get a wide release.

There's no question that Tim Burton's movie is getting a wide release, and as I said before it's been promoted since last year. This one was based on a short film by Shane Acker (who is also directing the full length remake) so it too has a claim to it's title. On the other hand, it hasn't necessarily been ingrained in the public consciousness that the Burton-produced movie is actually called 9 since the trailer flashes the title briefly before showing it's release date, 9-9-09. So it's possible that it can undergo a name change without confusing audiences. After all, the original trailer for Cloverfield never gave the title, just the release date of 1-18-08 (I know, it's lame that I can actually remember that).

Who knows? Maybe neither will budge, but if not I can see a lot of confusion happening here. It's easy to see somebody going to the ticket booth and asking to see "nine," and instead of getting the bleak CGI film they expected, they find themselves in a colorful live action musical. We won't know until they come out. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

... the mini-IMAX

and how apparently IMAX is boldly experimenting with brand dilution

I think that most people associate the brand name IMAX with one thing alone: a really big-ass movie screen. When I say big-ass I mean it envelops your entire field of vision. This is they way they show it on their website. It's so big, you're supposed to write it all in capital letters. Every IMAX i've ever been to has been has held true to this formula, until now. Recently IMAX has decided to slap its brand name on much smaller sized screens.

Previously, the only movies I'd ever seen in IMAX before were documentaries at museums. I'd never really felt compelled to pay the extra money to see a hollywood movie on an obscenely large screen. My friends who have been to see movies in IMAX before have described it as not being any better, just bigger. The one exception was my cousin who saw Speed Racer in IMAX (an underrated movie, I might ad) who pointed out that it's such a visual spectacle, that seeing it in such a large format only makes it better. 

Recently the AMC at Newport on the Levee added an IMAX to its lineup, so I figured I'd try it out since I had been meaning to see Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D, but hadn't gotten around to it. It cost about $15 for one ticket, but I figured for something that promised complete immersion into the movie, it was worth it this one time. 

I had assumed that what they did was just re-open the IMAX theatre that was built when Newport first opened up and that had closed shortly after. (At the time, it was primarily showing the sort of documentaries you see at museums). Instead, I was directed upstairs where the rest of the cinemas were. Now I was assuming that they had remodeled one of the existing theatre houses so that it now contained a supermassive movie screen. I walked into the door marked IMAX and was treated with... a completely ordinary sized screen. Granted it was the biggest screen at the AMC, but as best I could tell it was the exact same size as it was before they put the name IMAX on the door. They just charged more for you to get in. In fact, I think the old Lowes that used to be off Montgomery Road in Kenwood might have had larger screens.

As I took my seat, fuming about the fact that I had dropped $15 to see a movie on what was clearly not an IMAX, I remembered this article on the IMDB about how IMAX was announcing plans to expand by turning existing theatres into IMAXes. According to the article, owners of the old IMAX theatres were upset because they feared the brand would be weakened if people walked into a theatre expecting a 4800 square foot screen, and instead got half of that. IMAX's co-CEO argued that the brand IMAX refers to the whole theatre experience, not just a big screen. 

Nope, I'm with the theatre owners. Like I said before, IMAX to me means one thing alone: a really big-ass screen. Since there's no brand distinction between the old massive IMAXes and these new mini-IMAXes, I expect a lot of people are going to be up in arms when they walk in and see a screen that is completely ordinary. And considering that we're in a recession I doubt there are many people who are going to $5 extra per ticket for a sound system that's only noticeably better if you're a complete cinephile.

I also don't see people taking the effort to call ahead to find out if their local cinema has one of the big IMAXes or one of the baby ones. This is assuming of course that they even know these new downsized IMAXes exist out there. What I do see happening is a lot of people shelling out the extra money to see the first wave of summer blockbusters, realizing they've been had and not going back.