Thursday, January 31, 2013

Star Wars Abrams, Amazon, Netflix, Youtube, HBO Updates

This post is a bit shameful as it's about news that's already weeks old by now. I'd meant to post all of this earlier, but hadn't found the time with my busy schedule. I went with the posts I was already preparing - hell, I don't know how much people enjoy the Netflix and Streaming news I used to cover, anyway...

So let's start off with an image, shall we? Last week, we got the news that JJ Abrams is going to direct the next Star Wars picture, the first to come out under the new Disney banner. Now, I've had a long-standing issue with some of the tropes in JJ Abrams' film and TV work. He's a fine technical director, but I don't like how he handles characters and the audience.

But other fans had even more fun with this news, and they immediately started making gifs and images, many of which mock one of the most typical visual elements of JJ's work: the lens flare. I think the one on the right is my favorite, and I hope you laugh along with me now.

As to the rest of the news, I feel silly commenting on stuff that is, at the most recent, from two weeks ago, so I'll just lay out the info and leave you to read whatever appeals to you:

For one, Netflix signed a deal with Warner Bros Television. It gives them a lot of new TV shows (which Netflix seems to prefer over... what do you call those?... movies. Both recent WB-backed material like Fringe and Chuck will arrive to Netflix, and subscribers will even get a shot at current shows like NBC's Revolution. Netflix later added onto those gains by snapping up a wealth of shows from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

Amazon, meanwhile, signed a deal with A&E Network to add the cable company's biggest shows to Prime Membership viewing options. Yes, A&E and Amazon are exclusive! (awww) Shows from Lifetime, A&E, and History Channel will find their way onto the monitors of Amazon's Prime members...

HBO has signed (or rather, extended) an exclusive deal with Universal Pictures and Universal's Focus Films arm. HBO, on TV sets and online, will now be the sole source for Universal properties - for another 10 years. This takes a lot of material out of the hands of their rivals...

Youtube has decided to join in the pay-for-new-product market by allowing some producers to create TV-style channels for Youtube - but it will cost somewhere between $1 and $5 per month to see these offerings.

Finally, we return to Netflix for the last bit of news. They also semi-recently announced that it will offer "super HD" and 3D streaming options - but only for people who access its service through certain ISPs. You can read in the article how un-exciting these new options are - namely that "super HD" just means "1080p." [2/05/13 Update: Netflix also signed a deal with Queen Latifah's production company.]


  1. Given that my biggest criticism of Abrams's Star Trek was that it looked like he wished he was doing a Star Wars film, I'm pretty enthusiastic about the Star Wars news. He handled characters pretty well in Star Trek and MI:III. Then again, I tend to attribute the shortfalls in his movies to Kurtzman and Orci's writing rather than his direction. It's a relief to know that the next Star Wars has a writer who is neither Kurtzman nor Orci. (although with JJ now at the helm, who knows how long that will last?)

    All that Netflix/HBO news points out what's depressing about the world of streaming. Through the miracle of the first sale doctrine, the original DVD-based Netflix was the most comprehensive DVD library to which anyone would ever hope to have access. Streaming is more convenient, but it isn't comprehensive. With companies lurching to stake out their little corners of the content universe, it's going to get less and less comprehensive as the years roll by.

    Still, I am curious to see House of Cards. That could be a reason to be excited about Netflix, since otherwise they seem to be determined to become a commodity content provider.

    1. My issues with Abrams run throughout all his work - these are certain tropes that stick with all those TV shows that he only created, but didn't write day-to-day. I hate his need for "extreme" drama that builds less from character and more from a "wow, isn't this BIG?" factor. I've noted this repeatedly in other posts, but when you blow up someone's homeworld and its populace, it's pretty lame to have them *also* watch their own mom die. He has so much style and so little substance, and I wouldn't mind the lack of substance if the characters felt more genuine, or if the plot developments didn't feel so forced...

      You nailed it, re: the streaming news. All this push for exclusivity is kind of lame, if only because it means that the consumer will be the ultimate loser here. I think I posted news a while back that someone was starting a service whereby they would stream *actual running DVDs* to your computer. The nifty thing about that idea was that you could listen to audio commentaries and see special features - which you can't through any other streaming services (that I know of).

      Besides the great idea, you also have a company that makes its services different from the others, not simply through locking up major studios...

      House of Cards has some great names behind it, and it is a very interesting experiment, so I'm with you there. Remember that they're going to have new Arrested Development episodes this year, too. I haven't seen that show (among so many others), but people say it's right up my alley.

    2. I can't believe I'm going to defend a story beat I found pretty cheesy the first time I saw the film myself, but (SPOILERS for STAR TREK) Spock's mom dying like that is actually thematically defensible. While I'm no great lover of extreme for extreme's sake, Star Trek justified it as an element of the reboot: for this Kirk and Spock to be different from the originals, Kirk needs to lose what little superego he ever had by losing his father at birth, and Spock needs to lose the character who reminds him of his humanity. Plus, it made for part of a cool callback, a better "please beat me to death" line than "You belong in the circus, next to the dog faced boy!"

      Plus, if there's one place where style over substance might be a boon, it's the Star Wars Universe. George Lucas tried to get all thoughtful on the subject of democracy and the security state ( taxation and interstellar trade treaties) in the prequels, and that didn't turn out well. We know where JJ stands in the great continuum between "He's got the highest Midichlorian count I've ever seen" on one side and "Luminous creatures are we, not this crude matter" on the other.

    3. I can't argue with your finding some thematic purpose, etc. there. Still, in terms of emotional truthfulness, JJA always seems to go for big and loud and superficial. I think instead of storming off and looking at multiple suns, Abrams' Luke would probably have broken something, or went off to space-gun range, or gotten into a brawl.


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