Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is Netflix treating Canada better than the US?

Earlier in the week, I promised to write for the rest of the month; maybe 8/mo will be my standard, now? Anyway, I try to not be too obvious or repetitive, but it's worth using this chance to give Netflix some extra attention. First: I've already written about my neighbors to the North, and how well Netflix treated them in the past [7/27 UPDATE: And I will write about this again, too]. I've loved and appreciated a great many Canadians. Natasha Henstridge, Phil Hartman, Wayne Gretzky, Tommy Douglas... Amazing people.

Regardless, I start to wonder whether the home and main market for Netflix isn't getting enough attention. One week ago, Canada got a special update on its kids' show selection. Fair enough, maybe a lot of our northern neighbors have kids who missed a chance to skip commercials to just enjoy Barney, et al.

But 5 days before that, they got a special message about their super-hero movies. The selection alone is maddening to a US viewer: X-Men First Class, Thor, and (get this) Captain America.

Now, they're followed by Transformers 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Sky Captain, but those first 3 are movies that would get a lot of attention Stateside. They're obviously available as a fore-runner to The Avengers in May, but why not here, too? What kind of sick, absurd joke are we facing when Cpt. America is specifically not as easy to watch in the US as it is in Canada?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Question for the Week of Mar 26-Apr 1: Al Pacino

What happened to Al Pacino? I could try to explain, but I'll let Al do it himself:

His volume-challenged voice, his wild, frozen, hammy expressions... it's more Looney Tunes than... professional acting. Where is "Vincent Hanna" from? What happened to Glengarry Glen Ross? Or... Sea of Love (good lead, complicated movie)? Or even Frankie and Johnnie?

Bonus question: what was Michael Mann thinking? Double bonus: This was the take you went with? Not only is Hank Azaria's "jesus!" too quiet after Pacino's shouting, I think maybe Azaria wasn't just reading his lines.

The tone of this scene is all over the place, and doesn't work for me at all. Even if the dialogue was the point ("women's bodies=awesome" or "you been whipped, dummy"), I've seen other actors do this much, much better. I've never liked Heat, cool action sequences be damned; I remember when I saw it in the theater, and this moment didn't help.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Simpsons' McBain Movie

Y'know how The Simpsons occasionally play movie clips of their famous action hero, the "McBain" series? The one starring Springfield's favorite celeb, Rainier Wolfcastle (man, I love that name)? Good, we're all on the same page, then.

Endswell over at The High Definite site found a way to splice all these clips to form a 4 minute full-on fake-movie, a blitz of Schwarzeneggar cliches that Groening & Co. have now been mocking for decades...

It's not genius or anything, but it plays out nicely and old Simpsons is great Simpsons. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tom Clancy Reboot! + What is Tugg, and Netflix gets TED

March has been a hard month for this blog. I'm still technically on vacation, but I'm acting like I'm not. Work projects ate up a lot of my time; and my old eye injury came back - it made actual work difficult enough, forget about actually posting. Since I've been so lazy, I'll post at least once a day for the remainder of this month; it's not as cheap (or as easy) as it may sound...

Netflix's selection isn't always thrilling. They have a lot of kids' shows, a ton of Anime for some reason, and lots of TV series that I would never, ever watch. And then they do something crazy like streaming videos of recent TED presentations.

If you're unaware of what TED is, it's a conference dedicated to "important ideas." It draws a lot of attention from philanthropists, CEOs, scientists, and many others. The topics aren't always dry or depressing, either. In 2008, oceanic exploration was a topic; more recently, so was "smart laughter."

In terms of providing some sort of intellectual stimulation via video - instead of rotting your brain with unrealistic ideas and expectations - this move is a clear winner. You shouldn't give Netflix too much credit, tho - the website has for many years offered over 1000 of these speeches, and it's still there, all for free. This is thought-provoking material, and I must recommend it.

AiCN informs me that Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan" series is receiving a reboot, and that Kenneth Branagh will be directing it. This is especially embarrassing, I should think, as the series already got one do-over with Ben Affleck as the lead in in 2002's The Sum of All Fears. That pic got mixed reviews but almost doubled its budget in the US alone; somehow, any more Affleck-Clancy pix never followed.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Question for the week of Mar 19-25: Prometheus

What was Ridley Scott thinking when he came up with Prometheus? He can't need the money, and this story doesn't sound... It's...
Perhaps I should rewind a little. I only saw the trailer yesterday; I figured I would either see Prometheus no matter what (eagerly with or dragged along by a friend), or I would skip it, also no matter what. Finally, I chose to watch the whole ad regardless. Please do the same yourself.

Now, this movie looks great, visually. Unfortunately, it also looks like an unnecessary rehash of the first Alien. I like the retro vibe - the dated, "truckers in space" clothing like the first pic and whatnot. But the "one black crewman, female crew walking around in tighty-whities for women, a robot..." - it's too familiar.

And although the plot synopsis suggests some nifty possibilities, the story is too damn familiar anyway. Honestly, the terrifying thing about a creature like the Alien is that it exists (in the movies) and that it's endlessly dangerous. It doesn't really matter where they come from, much less why.

Or maybe, to put it more precisely - it doesn't matter enough to require giving us an explanation into that strange craft full of alien pods. Would I want to see a 30 minute short film about the random day in the Star Wars universe when someone built the Millenium Falcon? Nope! I just appreciate the ship when it's there. Seriously, doing a story for the sake of narrative clarity is a pretty stupid motivation.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Subtitles for "Bros," Back to the Future novel, Memento pic and more

Sorry I've been so silent, but I started a new job recently; between that, getting sick twice, and clients on the side, it's been hard to make time. I can only try to match the length of my absence with the coolness of this post, dedicated to great fan-made works.

There's a brilliant new tumblr out there: apparently, Universal decided to make a Back to the Future novel that was released when the original movie came out. No joke, and some sections of the book are flat-out crazy. Please check out "B to the F," one of the coolest new tumblrs to come around in a while...

A little while ago, I was laughing so hard I was basically helpless. That's what happened when AV Club (via the daily what) introduced me to "subtitles for bros," and I saw a picture of the court scene in To Kill a Mockingbird. I found the whole video they put together, so please enjoy it below:

I may not like "bros," but I could watch this all day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hollywood, I hope people make out at your funeral

Why? Why would I write something mean-spirited like that? Because The Bodyguard is being re-released around the country on March 28th, that's why. Thank you, AV Club, for this horrible, horrible news.

In the simplest possible terms:
(a) The Bodyguard was not a good movie, in any way. It was slow and drab and not exciting or romantic, which is a bad way to go for a thriller + love affair pic. It did nothing for Whitney Houston's acting career, and it was Costner's first big stumble (except for Revenge) after his string of 7 hits in 5 years (1987 to 1992).
(b) It's being rereleased not to honor Whitney Houston, but to grub a few extra bucks off of her death.

Hey, Hollywood! Why don't you just dig up her dead body and sell what you find in the coffin? It would be about as decent of you...

It will be playing in 4 theaters in NYC. If you find yourself at any of those viewings, I hope you stub your toe.

UPDATE: I'm sorry, in the rush to post quickly and move on, I focused on getting the news out and expressing my opinions. But that may come off as pure snark, and I'm better than that. Here are some positive, constructive comments:

Whitney Houston appeared in 4 movies: The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher's Wife were 90's films, and none were well-reviewed. Whitney was only the star of the first and the last. It's offensive and cheap, then, to "honor" a dead person by putting her most famous and suckiest pic back on the big screen.

So why doesn't a Hollywood studio make a deal with her record label and release a film of Houston's best concert performances? Her vocation was to sing, and concert movies can be a lot of fun. Such a release wouldn't take a long time to edit and cut into a picture that celebrates her talent - it wouldn't need to be slick and perfect.

Or here's another idea... Whitney had a minor role in Sparkle, a movie that comes out this August. So why not simply rush the completed movie through the rest of its post-production process, then release that at the end of this month? This sort of quick work might be more difficult than I think, but it would be a reasonable way to still put out "a Whitney Houston movie" without coming off as a pure money-grubber (especially if it's a good performance in a good pic).

Alternatively, Hollywood could also get together a very plain series of interviews with people who knew and worked with Ms. Houston, then splice that in with footage of her live performances. If it were fast-tracked, it might be available for theaters within 2-3 months after her death, and they could promote it as they put the film together.

See? There were some options available here; it's just that the cheapest and most profitable won out. It's a lousy set of decisions since it's supposed to commemorate a troubled and talented artist who died young...

Friday, March 2, 2012

No, Amazon Instant doesn't have subtitles

[4/27/15 UPDATE: Amazon Instant has subtitled all over the place now - something I clarified in my 6th Anniversary post, which went up this past week. To give you a sense of how much time passed, the post you're reading now went up before my site's 3rd anniversary. Clearly, Amazon decided to fix things - in the US, at least. I can't speak for foreign territories and Amazon.]

I figured I would make this clear since it's a search term that often brings people to my site: Amazon Instant has no subtitles or captions unless you'd get them in an American movie theater. Your question has been answered.

I can give that answer because I took the free trial, finally. Amazon's selection is good, with fewer movies, though the tv section is very similar to that of Netflix. Regardless, it seems like the only videos that have closed captions are the foreign language movies with English subtitling.