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Saturday, June 23, 2018


Galaxy X
Samsung will be unveiling the first 'foldable' smart phone this February (maybe sooner). The Galaxy X, the tenth phone in the Galaxy series, will also feature a fingerprint and  facial scanner.

An answer to Apple's latest, the X will boast a 3.5" OLED that will fold out to a huge 7 inch tablet-sized phone. The phone may fold out like a book and may likely be comprised of three screens (or OLED panels) giving the appearance of a phone/tablet on one side and just a regular phone on the other side.

Global sales of consumer electronics will total more than $1.014 trillion this year. That growth driven by continued demand for three major categories of product: smartphones, smart speakers, and TVs. Innovation across the consumer electronics industry is pushing adoption of new technologies like voice control and artificial intelligence.

The current mantra in innovation is "How do we simplify technology?"

Entering store and being scanned
Suning Commerce Group, the Chinese retail store company, announced plans to open four unmanned automated stores. The cashier-less stores are aimed at offering today's tech-savvy consumers a very new and convenient shopping experience.

Powered by facial recognition technology, Radio Frequency Identification, big data analysis, and its own online financial services the Suning unmanned stores offer a friction-less shopping and paying experience.

Exiting store through pathway
After entering the store the customer simply lets a camera scan their face which is linked automatically to prearranged bank card. To check out, shoppers only need to carry their goods along the payment pathway which will recognize the shoppers and their items - making the entire check-out process less than 15 seconds.

This is surely the store of the future and you'll be seeing more and more of them as the consumer experience is paramount and the ease and convenience of the cashier-less store is what every shopper wants. Sales staff will still be on-hand to assist with product information and sales assistance.

Big Tech Sits Out On Big Media Buyouts

FAANG sees no value in buying big media
FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) aren't too keen about getting involved in the recent M&A of big media and communication companies. AT&T's buy of Time-Warner, Disney's bid for Fox and Comcast's upping the Fox ante with an all cash $65 billion offer than Disney countering the Comcast, offer.

All of these recent deals have left FAANG noticeably out of the mix. While there has been speculation for years about when big tech would make substantial plays for traditional media targets, its become clear they might not need to make any big acquisition to achieve their goals.

Take Netflix. N has built its current empire largely from scratch, buying rights deals for cable shows and, more recently, leading the industry in originally produced content.  Amazon, on the other hand, has re-upped it NFL streaming rights along with that of English soccer. It has also increased its original scripted series and movies, and streaming the back catalogs of other networks. Although lagging Netflix, which is said to be spending over $12.6 billion on non-sports content this year - it plans to end the year with 1,000 original movies and series including 470 that will debut in the second half of the year.

Also, in thinking about the situation, there isn't much left to buy. The old way of doing business - studios produce content and try to sell it to networks, which in turn monetize them in as many ways, on as many outlets as possible - is fading away faster then most expected.  Amazon and Netflix don't sell content to networks, they use it on their direct-to-consumer services.

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The media industry is very consolidated and the tech giants don't have much interest in buying legacy media companies - they would rather invest and build-out content and programming.  If otherwise, the deals would have already been made.

So, I believe FAANG will go on its merry way and leave the fighting to the big media and communications companies which will have problems integrating and monetizing themselves.

Just Saying,

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Are Superheroes In Need Of Super Interventions?

What do Superheroes stand for? In today's world, can movie superheroes justify the violence inherent in their movies and its impact on society at large?
Coping With Their Angst

Tom King, publisher and comic writer at DC Comics, thinks so and announced that his next project will be a seven issue comic series entitled, 'Heroes In Crisis'.

The 'Heroes In Crisis' series is going to center around a place called 'The Sanctuary' - a trauma center for superheroes founded by Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  The premise of King's series will trace what happens when the 'Sanctuary' fails to deliver for its patients and what happens afterwards.

"I feel I'm part of a generation of people who spent their twenties fighting terrorism. I think that sort of experience of violence is shaping who we are as a culture and as a country."  I believe King is right. I do think that the level of violence in films, video games, TV shows, and the rest does impact society - and not in a good way.

King went on, "And I want to discuss that. To talk about the impact of violence we experience in movies, particularly superhero comics and films, and what that can do to a person, community, nation, world. I feel a duty to talk about what violence does to a society through the comics I'm creating."

So superheroes, like all of us, have angst, internal conflict, coping issues. How they address their issues may be a lesson for all of us. Perhaps the violence can be dialed-down but the question remains is the violence of the content impacting the viewer or is the content mirroring what exists in society?
What do you think?

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato

Monday, June 04, 2018

What Makes A Franchise: Story or Actors?

Franchise films: Stars or Character Driver
Some of the very best, most popular, not to mention profitable, movie franchises are studded with big named 'A' listers.  For example, 'Avengers: Infinity War' inclued Robert Downey, Scarlett Johansson, Chad Boseman, etc. In fact, most of the Marvel character-based films have loads of 'A' listers.

So the question has become: what is driving the franchise box-office? Is it the stars or is it the Marvel, superhero characters?  Now, take a franchise like the 'Incredibles', being animated it has no human actors, yet it is a box-office smash. In fact, its family-based characters are the films' biggest selling point.

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Let me put it this way. If a franchise film had no human 'A' listers would you still visit your local cinema and see it? The answer is Yes, pure and simple.

To me, it is quite obvious that franchise films don't need a cadre of big-name actors to carry them to box-office success.  'Solo: A Star Wars Story' is a great example, can you name the actor who plays Han Solo in the film? On the other hand, one of this summer's expected big money makers, 'Skyscraper', would probably not garner a big box-office payday if Dwayne Johnson, was not in the lead role. He's the Rock and he draws in moviegoers like a magnet.
Bond, the ultimate Franchise

Franchise films, like 'Mission Impossible', have latched onto a star, in this case Tom Cruise, and stayed with him, as he bring in the money.  At 55, Cruise has no plans on giving up the phyicaly demanding aspects of the 'Impossible' films - but how long can this last? Like the Bond films, if the "MI" franchise is to continue Cruise will have to be replaced.

Now, a perfect example of star-power in a franchise was the 'Oceans' series. With, Clooney, Pitt, Damon, and Cheadle running complicated capers the three 'Oceans' pics would never have made blockbuster status without these 'A' listers.  Now they are trying to replicate it in 'Oceans 8' with a stellar all female cast: Bullock, Blanchett, Rihanna, Paulson, Kaling, and Awkwafina - it will be interesting to see if the women can keep the franchise 'working'.

To sum up - it seems that in this time of the franchise - stars have to really push or come in bunches to carry the films and avoid extinction. Because in the 'great cinematic universe' stars die out while a franchise, like black space, can live on forever.


Jim Lavorato
by: Cinema Mucho Gusto

A Weinstein Horror Film

De Palma plans Weinstein horror film
Like I said before - you can't make this stuff up.

On Friday (6/1) Brian De Palma, the noted film director - 'Scarface', 'The Untouchables', 'Mission Impossible', 'Carrie', stated that he would be creating and directing a Harvey Weinstein horror film.

Yes, horror is the right genre.
The 77 year-old director, in an interview with French publication Le Parisien, stated that the whole Weinstein saga  of sexual abuse and harassment will be the premise for his next work, and be a film that will be within the horror genre. "I'm writing a film about the whole scandal. My character won't be named Harvey Weinstien, but it will be a horror movie with a sexual predator, and take place in the film industry."  The similarities will be noticeable.

De Palma did not say how soon the script for this new film would be completed.  His latest project, a movie entitled, 'Domino', has just wrapped but no date for its release has been announced.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato
Cinema Mucho Gusto