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The Hangover Part II

I love when Jeffrey Katzenberg has predictions about the movie industry. Here’s a guy who thought 3D was going to change everything. I mean, it could have, and I was with him back in 2006, but that got ruined fast (don’t even get me started on how bad The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks, especially in the first two action scenes). He’s also a guy who seemed to have it all figured out about revolutionizing the feature animation game when he left Disney, but now of course he’s losing money on one bad idea after another (not that I ever though Shrek was a good idea). Now his latest prophecy is as silly as they get: the DreamWorks Animation head thinks by 2024 we will be paying variable prices for movie content based on the size of the screen. Yep, that would mean your Netflix subscription would monitor whether you were watching on a phone, tablet, laptop, modest size TV or big screen TV. Who knows what the deal would be on monitor and projector hookups to your computer, the latter potentially blowing up your picture to fill your wall, but then he also rattles off prices as if movie theater tickets will still only be $15. Katzenberg’s idea came up during some panel about entrepreneurial leadership on Monday. Variety quoted him as saying, I think the model will change and you won’t pay for the window of availability. A movie will come out and you will have 17 days, that’s exactly three […]

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Fruitvale Movie

During the summer of 1998, one of the two multiplexes in my modestly sized hometown devoted one of its sixteen screens to limited release films throughout the entire season. They showed a range of small, non-mainstream narrative works from that surprisingly indie-rich summer, including Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66, Wayne Wang’s Chinese Box, James Toback’s Two Girls and a Guy, Don Roos’s The Opposite of Sex, Whit Stilman’s The Last Days of Disco, Neil LaBute’s Your Friends and Neighbors, and Mr. Jealousy, a film that almost nobody remembers Noah Baumbach made. Despite their nearby availability, I saw approximately zero of these films. I was thirteen years old, and my parents maintained their strict no-R policy. But it was enough for me that the names of these films showed up in the local paper, and that I saw their posters displayed through smudged plexiglass outside the box office as I bought my ticket to see Jane Austen’s Mafia! for the third time (I’m not kidding). I told myself I was perfectly content with the likes of Godzilla, Small Soldiers, and that other Avengers, but I patiently looked forward to the day when I was brave enough to sneak into (and, a few years later, pay to see) these movies so that I could figure out what this trailer was all about. I wasn’t yet experiencing blockbuster fatigue, just bottled excitement that there were new and weird and envelope-pushing movies that existed out there. But apparently, my multiplex’s experiment was a […]

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Taken 2: iPad Boogaloo

This is not an article that makes wild predictions about the future. It probably won’t solve all of you movie-watching problems, either. It’s also not entirely about a movie in which Liam Neeson has a set of skills. It is, however, a cautiously optimistic piece about where the world of digital distribution is heading. We talk about it far too much as part of the debate over piracy. The notion that for producers of content to truly reach the plugged in generation, they’re going to have to fix the mechanism that sells us the content. It’s perhaps the worst conditions under which we talk about digital distribution. So many sides, so many emotions, so much grey area exists in the piracy discussion. And so often, it escalates out of control. But what about the optimistic side of digital distribution. What is it that people want most, if they aren’t simply after something free. It’s simple: they want it now. And more and more, we’re seeing distributors who are closing the gap between when things are in theaters and when you can have it in our home. In these instances, there’s cause for hope.

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Culture Warrior

It’s difficult to think that something as definitive of modern-age movie-watching as DVD special features could become a thing of the past, but there are plausible scenarios in which that could happen. DVD and Blu-Ray sales have slowed in the past few years as viewers become more and more accustomed to streaming services as their go-to means of watching movies in the home. However, when viewers streams a film via Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, or Hulu, more often than not, they receive the film itself and nothing else. The attraction for audiences who use streaming services is exclusively the film and the film alone, not the film in conjunction with other supplementary materials that immerse the viewer further into the creation of that film. The film – for the first time since the days of VHS – now speaks for itself. After DVDs first became popular in the late 90s and early 2000s, the value of the DVD could be determined (and often manipulated) by how much material the discs provided for outside the running time of the film. The appeal of buying a DVD of a particular film did not lie in owning the film itself, but having access to that film in connection to a web of information related to it. Documentaries, commentaries, and deleted scenes provided a DVD experience that felt definitive – these discs made available the notion that herein was everything to know and understand about a particular film. The Lord of the Rings Extended Trilogy, […]

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Culture Warrior

Last week, Thomas Catan and Amy Schatz of The Wall Street Journal published an article about the Justice Department’s antitrust investigation into whether or not cable companies are manipulating consumers’ access to streaming competitors of television content in order to reduce competition. The investigation’s central question is this: are cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner setting data caps to limit download time, speed, and amount of content in order to stave consumers off from using alternatives like Hulu and Netflix? Furthermore, the DOJ is investigating whether or not selective data limits applied to certain streaming outlets (like the fact that Comcast’s data limits can apply to streaming Hulu, but not Comcast’s own Xfinity services) violates Comcast’s legally-binding oath to not “unreasonably discriminate” against competitors. According to the WSJ, “Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday suggested he had sympathy for those who want to ‘cut the cord’ rather than paying for cable channels they don’t watch. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) said cable bills are ‘out of control’ and consumers want to watch TV and movies online. Mr. Holder responded, ‘I would be one of those consumers.’” What’s most important about this story for TV consumers is not so much the specific outcomes of this investigation (though that will no doubt have wide-ranging but uncertain implications), but the fact that lawmakers, regulators, and the industry will continue to be forced to recognize new distinctions being made between cable companies, networks, and individual shows as citizens increasingly […]

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Culture Warrior

Veteran filmmaker Paul Schrader, notorious author Bret Easton Ellis, and indie producer Braxton Pope want you to audition for their new film. They’re assembling a microbudget feature for the digital distribution market called The Canyons, and they’re looking for some fresh new faces to star in it. Is your lack of an agent or non-Los Angeles residence preventing you from getting a fair chance at auditioning for legit films? There’s no need to worry, for we live in the 21st century my friend. The Canyons is holding its audition process through Facebook. On the one hand, The Canyons‘s unique production process makes complete sense. We are no longer, after all, in 2006 when studio producers had an overinvested, experimental Snakes on a Plane-level-interest in Internet culture. In this case, even on a small-budget independent film, the visible gatekeepers still possess power over the participants within the supposedly “democratized” framework of social networking. For a while it seemed that cinema – largely an object particular to 20th century logic – could not adapt to the boundary-destroying, power-shifting implications of the 21st century. Now this seems to no longer be the case. Web distribution (which was little more than a fantasy or an overblown threat to theatrical cinema’s hegemony just over a decade ago) is now seen as a conceivable and potentially profitable alternative to traditional film exhibition.

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From a family legacy to positive portrayals of black youth to showing up at the club with your kids, Mario Van Peebles and his son Mandela cover it all while discussing their forthcoming flick We The Party. To the bass beat of The Rej3ctz and Snoop Dogg, we discuss rising above racism, staying hip, heading out in a hoodie and a whole lot more. Plus, Hollywood.com Movies Editor Matt Patches joins us for Movie News Roulette and weighs in on Bully and Ninja Turtles. Download Episode #127

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You gotta hand it to the writers over at The Oatmeal…they know how to start a debate. Whether it be here on this site or any of the other number of sites, the comic about pirating Game of Thrones due to its lack of streaming availability has sparked some incredibly vocal controversy. Some are waging in on the mental attitude of pirates, some about HBO’s potentially out-dated business model, and even some are arguing over whether it’s possible to steal things that aren’t physical ‘things.’ All of these discussions are thought-provoking and entertaining topics of deliberation – but there’s something that appears to be missed or ignored in this whole debate session, until recently on the AV Club,  and yet is almost directly front-and-center from the source of the discussion: People are fighting hard against the wrong villain.

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In our first show of the 2012 season, we set off the filmmaking fireworks by finding out why Innkeepers director Ti West doesn’t believe in spooks, and by talking to indie icon Ed Burns about the twitter revolution, his $9,000 budget, and his new must-see movie Newlyweds. Plus, Neil Miller stops by to dangle the hope and potential of 2012′s most anticipated movies over our noses. Will he say the movie you’re thinking of and validate his opinion to you, or will he neglect it, making everything he says in the future suspect? Be prepared to find out a metric ton about movies and their makers, because it’s our third season, and we’re only getting started. Download This Episode

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Culture Warrior

Amongst the many reactions to Steve Jobs’s death last week, I found one comparison that people drew to be quite compelling. In order to find a fitting historic analogy to illustrate the cultural significance of Jobs’s life, comparisons ran the gamut from Nikola Tesla to, erm, John Lennon (“think different,” I guess?). But several people, including, Roger Ebert, brought to light continuities with Thomas Edison. Edison, like Jobs, was an industrialist: part inventor, mostly capitalist. But specific to his own life, Edison spent most of his career securing patents and making improvements to existing technologies rather than building something from scratch. Edison’s reputation associates him with a great deal more invention than he was actually involved in. I’m not trying to be cynical about Jobs. Far from it. In fact, I’ve been more than a little annoyed with the backlash to consumer mourning about Jobs than any initial hyperbole associated with Jobs’s death in the first place. I don’t give a flying shit about executives in pretty much any industry, but saying “he’s just a CEO” does not negate the great intellectual worth and cultural interest of Jobs himself. Jobs, like Edison, developed a cult of personality that extended well beyond the person.

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I used to love collecting TV seasons on DVD almost as much as collecting movies on DVD. But what the movie discs always added, things like commentary and behind the scenes docs, the TV discs completely lacked. After season 1, what’s left to say? We know how the show got made, why people got cast as they did, what a pain in the ass it was to get the pilot produced, the re-casting that occurred after the pilot. Extra content was hard to come by. For crying out loud, the most recent season of Dexter’s special features included episodes of other Showtime programs. Those are ads, not bonus features. A movie on DVD is easy. It’s a single thing, the story exists in that movie and that movie alone (usually). I don’t have to pop in the next five discs just to get to episode 22 where I find out that House is still a drug addict or that Jack is still really angry about something. In order to re-watch a TV series, especially a serialized one, I have to re-watch the entire thing. Very few shows exists that I enjoy watching single episodes of. I recently spent the last few weeks selling all my old TV on DVD sets, even the ones I had the complete series for, simply because I wasn’t watching them. As I packaged each one and put it into the mail box, I realized how much money I spent on the set, and how useless of a purchase it really was.

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For a very important reason, Transcendent Man begins with death. It’s a theme that pervades the entire discussion of technology, the future, and the direction that humanity might be headed in. After all, it’s that fear of death that propels us forward to delaying it, and, if Ray Kurzweil has his way, defeating it. If the idea of scientifically-created immortality (as opposed to the philosophical or Pearly Gate variety) seems outlandish, it’s only one of several put forth by Kurzweil in the film. Fortunately, it’s a movie about much more than just his predictions. It would be the dullest mind-blowing experience if it were, but instead of focusing too much on the science, the documentary creates a portrait of the man making the claims – complete with his failings and warmth. One version is a genius inventor who created a way for the blind to read. The other is a man haunted by the spectre of his father and debilitated by the thought of his own end.

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Apple and Warner Bros. have announced that they are teaming up to bring app versions of feature films to iOS devices. What will a movie app entail exactly? Their press release explains, “App Editions provide a fully-loaded, connected viewing experience that gives consumers the first five minutes of a feature film and a portion of bonus content that can include games, trivia, soundtracks and soundboards.  The entire feature film can be unlocked via an in-app purchase, which enables downloading and unlimited streaming, as well as access to the entire array of bonus content available within the App.” So basically a movie app is an advertisement for a movie that gives you a link to buy said movie being advertised. The first two movies to get the treatment will be Christopher Nolan’s pair of huge hits The Dark Knight and Inception. That’s probably a good strategy for the first releases; they’re both insanely popular in a mainstream way, but nerd centric at their cores. If any part of Apple’s tech savvy audience is going to be willing to download individual films onto their iOS devices, then this will probably be a good judge of what percentage. Purchasing Inception will cost $11.99, while The Dark Knight will only be $9.99, so this suggests that different movies will have different price points depending on their release dates if this takes off as a concept.

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Netflix and services like it have defined a formative love of cinema for movie fans, but are there severely negative implications for the growing dominance of this increasingly dominant home video distribution model?

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Steve Jobs iPad

So you bought yourself an iPad. If that’s true, it can only mean one thing. You’re one of those people. Good for you. Now, all you need to do is figure out what to do with your over-sized iPhone and you’ll be in good shape. Here are a few ideas, for movie lovers.

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bp-studios1

This week, studios have Robert Fure all riled up – but probably not in the way you think.

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Monty Python Giveaway!

Nobody expects the Monty Python Giveaway! With iTunes teaming up with Monty Python, everyone is a winner. (Not really. There can be only one.)

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Officially Cool

I saw something in the iTunes store that said Watchmen, and my first thought was “Holy hell, what is it?”. Turns out that DC has commissioned a full motion comic of Watchmen.

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