Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Review Quickies, X (Halloween Edition)

It's a special time: my 200th post! No wait, also Halloween. A time to dress up unlike yourself; indulge the scariest, most macabre, ideas you can. Get a fake (properly-rigged!) noose and make someone think you're dead. Decorate your house with creepy stuff. And watch scary movies, even if you're not very much into them.

If you're a full-time goth, bdsm-fetishist, or taxidermy nut, then I truly pity you: it's just a wilder Monday than usual. In any case, since it's nearly All Hollow's Eve, I'm reviewing 7 horror movies (here are the jump links to each entry) - Freddy vs. Jason, The Ruins, Trick 'r Treat, Leviathan, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Black Sheep, and Dee Snyder's Strangeland - as well as providing a final set of recommendations for anyone looking for a good scare. Enjoy, please, and feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Freddy vs. Jason
I walked into this because the original Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the greatest things ever put to film. It's so scary, I wouldn't blame anyone for running out of theater and trying to stay up for several nights. It has a great cast - Depp, Englund, Saxon, Langenkampf (I miss saying that name). It even has John Cusack's evil gf from Better Off Dead. Forget (most of) the sequels.

The Friday the 13th series, as I've written before, is a difficult case. Once you understand where it stands in film history, you see why something like that could create 10 sequels. Most of them were odd film "events" - like the occasional James Bond pic over the last 45 years. Their budgets and quality fluctuated even more than Nightmare's. Still, "everyone" knows the names "Freddy Krueger" and "Jason Voorhees." The synergy must've been easy to sell.

2003's Freddy vs. Jason was a bit schizo, smashing together elements from each. At least the starring pair were combined neatly: Freddy can't haunt kids unless "the public" fears him. His town, however, deleted all records that even name him. Krueger decides to bring Jason into town because any supernatural killing machine is sure to make people eventually think Freddy's back. Of course, Jason's a little too good, leaving no survivors for Fred to feed on.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Netflix lost 810,00 "members"

It's easy, sitting back here on my blog-cation. It's also a lot of fun watching news updates come in. I took Netflix to task in a post I wrote when I heard about their second price increase in under a year. I did it again when they announced they would spin off their DVD business, and I also covered their reversal of that decision. Now, I'm writing one more time, to discuss the aftermath of all this.

Netflix lost 810,000 viewers between July/August and October of 2011. According to CBS, their stock price also dropped 31% in after-hours trading as a result of the company's declaration of the extent of their losses. Before I slag off the service (I mean, really, I let my membership lapse for a month and half but still re-subscribed, just to prove a point), I will say a few things in their defense. I'm like that.

For one, the company was over-optimistic on their membership figures, but only by 200,000 members/viewers/human being (whatever those are). For another, the company still improved on its earnings by over 50% of what it earned last year at the same time. These two facts serve as proof for me that the stock market is a ridiculous, senseless place. It is, by its nature, driven by mob mentality - some loud noise happens on the left, so everyone runs to the right; something looks scary, so it must be threatening. It's scarier than Freddy Kreuger to think that our economy actually relies on this system.

It's especially scary, because it's clear by the numbers that Netflix is not on the verge of collapse, and has a lot of value, and will continue to do good business. Honestly, given that my country-men and -women are so addicted to tv and film that they will watch them on tiny cell-phone (much less tablet) screens, there's no freaking way that Netflix will suddenly become a bust, like the Edsel or Coke 2. All this "market action" is driven by idiots with just enough info to be over-scared or over-confident.

I take comfort in knowing that if the collective "stock market world" were put in a horror movie, their dumb asses would run straight into a trap and get killed in no time flat. Thank heaven.

Turning now to the flipside: Netflix precipitated all this selling in the market by the letter it sent to its investors, announcing its problems over this last quarter. This corporate entity basically made an admission of how things were not going very smoothly. Still, this type of public declaration is required by the SEC for publicly-traded stock, so it was an act of obligation, not kindness and forthrightness.

Also, even tho the news was written for a fairly-impersonal process - like contacting an uncle/cousin you despise about the death of a mutual relation - it still gave this news in the most impersonal, sugar-coated, bs-ey way possible. You can read that letter here. It's all business, folks, and it's run like a den of prostitution where they (I don't know from personal experience) time your activities down to the second, and bill you as much as possible. Netflix states that it still expects to do great on a "global" scale, because they can afford to get trashed in the US while they opened up business in the rest of the Americas, and soon England and Ireland, too.

So the only way I can properly sum up everything I've typed is this: Netflix is still a "good" company in terms of profitability. It's still an increasingly lousy company in terms of how it respects and treats the people that actually use and pay for it. I will give them a hard time, but their viability is still obvious. Just like I-Tunes didn't totally suck because they copy-protected their music.

All things taken together, this phenomenon/business/fad is pretty much like The Soup Nazi - it may not treat you great, but it still gives a lot of satisfaction for what it demands from you. As a consumer, then, it's up to you to decide whether it's worth what it costs.

And if anyone has suggestions for how I can further distance myself from them, I'm open to it: at this point, I don't care any more about Netflix than it cares about me; it's one of the least seductive brands of all-time. It's like having an attractive person proposition you for really-good, but utterly meaningless, sex.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 Vids, other film blogs, PS I'm on holiday

Yes, I said it in May, but I found more blog posts within myself. I powered thru June, July, August, and September like a 1-ton lovin' machine because that's what I am. This video shows, more or less, what happened to me recently:

"...I can dodge bad movies?" "No, Thaddeus... when you're ready, you won't have to."

Except you didn't see the kiss before my revival, and, rumors be damned, I never had a physical encounter with Hugo Weaving; other than that, it was pretty much what you just saw. & I inspired myself to keep posting through injuries, hospital trips, rough work conditions, and big life changes. Others have written through worse, how could I not?

But keeping this site is a labor of love, and it feels like I'm "makin' love out of nothing at all." While it's doable, now I need a recharge; I like what I write and even I get tired of hearing me singing solos. Thus I am weary, having said before that breaks would be necessary. So here we are, announcing my leave in my 199th post =)

Yes, I was holding for applause.

The upside: The 2011 pace was at least what I promised, 12x/mo, and I beat my combined output for 2009 and 2010. If you've followed me, you noticed that I upped the pace even more. I made 6 additional posts in August & September, with which I could've easily strung everyone along until November. I didn't because I run a class operation, and believe in finishing strongly. And I wanted to play with my schedule a bit, even while planning this break. Maybe when I come back, I'll post every day..

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

John Carpenter's The Thing: The Musical

Jon and Al Kaplan have contributed a lot to the world. The Predator Musical, the Conan musical - those have been featured here before.

Now this: John Carpenter's The Thing, The Musical. J & A have made a beautiful piece, all the more so because it breaks style from their earlier work. Instead of parodying Les Mis, they took a page off The Rat Pack, and so we have Sinatra/Dean belting out the tale of an alien creature bent on world destruction, all in a swanky mood\. If anything, this makes me want to rewatch Carpenter's classic all the more.

I noticed this yesterday while I was making sure my "Netflix-not-Qwickster" post went up properly, so I set this entry to post today. I will shortly alter my "Vacation" post so it appears after both. Enjoy, please:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Netflix buys itself a clue, so my vacation takes a back seat

So I announced my vacation this past Saturday. It received all the fanfare that I expected. Then Netflix messed that up for me with today's announcement: they are undoing their decision to split the DVD and streaming business into separate companies. The news went out by 9AM this morning, and the company sent me an email saying the same about 2 & 1/2 hours after that.

I'm glad that Netflix made this choice - that they "saw the light" (or "got their heads out of their asses") - but it also means I have to break my vacation silence. Clearly, their Charlie Sheen-style binge has already reached the repentance phase. I've written about them too much to not follow this news and give my two cents. I think I'll post this and then re-date my "vacation" post so it'll show up afterwards.

Why did Netflix reverse its decision? Was it because of fan outcry? Was it because the idea wouldn't produce the desired "efficiencies" that the company was hoping for? Hell, no, it was because their stock price has dropped by about 60%. That's what they really care about, and that's what really motivated them.

It may sound harsh, like I'm an anti-corporate type, but that's not true. It's just that, if you follow my posts on Netflix, you'll recall that they removed all the personalization from their service. Specifically, you can't tell who gave a good/bad review to a video.