movies

Marketing Beat: Stumptown Film to Explore Farmers’ Struggles and Skateboarding

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flowers for flowers movie stumptown coffee

As the the summer blockbuster movie season springs upon us, prominent Portland, Oregon-based coffee roasting company Stumptown Coffee Roasters is releasing a film of its own. While not likely to…

Film Watch: Are These Movie Remakes a Good Idea?

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In the last decade or so, we’ve had the chance to see an amazing variety of movie remakes. The remake-mania has grown to such proportions that some voices have started speaking of Hollywood losing every last bit of creativity and capability to push out original ideas, relying on its glorious past alone to make a living. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a few remakes succeed (The Manchurian Candidate, Ocean’s Eleven, Kong: Skull Island) and many of them fail, starting with 1998’s Psycho and ending with this year’s deplorable The Mummy. But the remake machine seems never to stop. For next year and beyond, there are many remakes planned (or maybe just rumored), with massive cult classics among them. The question remains, though, whether it is a good idea or not to remake these movies?

Highlander

Connor MacLeod from the clan MacLeod was born in 1518 in Glenfinnan, Scotland. When we meet him on the silver screen for the first time, he watches a wrestling match at the Madison Square Garden in 1985, and he doesn’t look a year older than 30 (even less when he is shaved clean). He is immortal, one of many, and has the task to fight other immortals and survive to receive the mysterious reward referred to as “The Prize” offered by the powers that be for the only one left. Highlander wasn’t a massive success upon its initial release but became a cult classic soon, without a doubt helped by the amazing operatic rock soundtrack played by one of Britain’s immortal rock bands, Queen. The movie has since spawned several feature-length movies, two TV series, a handful of , animated series, comic books, novels, and even a collectible card game.

A Highlander remake has been announced by Summit Entertainment in 2008. The movie has been in development hell ever since. Some progress on the movie has been reported this January when John Wick director Chad Stahelski revealed that the project is in the “advanced staged” of pre-production. He said that it will be a sort of reimagining of the original movie, and it may even start a trilogy.

Scarface

Few people know that 1983’s classic mobster movie Scarface is itself a remake – writer Oliver Stone and director Brian de Palma built it on top of the 1932 film with the same name, based on real-life mobster Al Capone. This time, the movie tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who fights his way up from nothing to the position of the most powerful drug kingpin in Miami. The movie was criticized for its excessive use of violence, profanity, and graphic drug use, yet it was still a major success, grossing $44 million (around $108 million today) and going down in history as one of the best mob films ever made. The film was nominated for many awards, from the Golden Globes to the Razzies, and is still one of the “must-see” mob movies for lovers of the genre.

A Scarface remake has been in the works for years. Universal first announced a new version of the movie in 2011, a new story taking elements from both the 1932 original and the 1983 remake. The Coen brothers are set to write the script, and David Ayer was set to direct until this summer when he left over a script that’s “too dark”. The studio planned to release the movie next August.

The Crow

Eric Draven was the happiest man in the 1990s Detroit – he played in an up-and-coming rock band and planned to marry the most wonderful woman in the world. But on one dark night, it all came to an end: his fiancé was raped and murdered by a gang of arsonists, and he himself was thrown out the window of their garret and fell to his death. But there is no way for such pain to go un-avenged – Draven returns from the dead on the Devil’s Night (October 30) next year to avenge his and his fiancé’s death and set a few things right in the city. The movie is remembered for its deep emotional content, unique visuals, and the loss of actor Brandon Bruce Lee, who died in a freak accident before the film was completed. It was a box office success, and it has attained a strong cult following.

The movie’s remake spent almost a decade at Relativity Media, changing actors and directors several times. Today, the distribution rights are at Sony Pictures, that plans to release a film faithful to the indie comic created by James O’Barr in 1989. The latest rumors speak of Corin Hardy (The Hallow) to direct and Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Justice League) to star. There’s no word on when the movie can be expected to be released – but it will surely have some really big shoes to fill.

Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy Dies at 83

Leonard Nimoy(CNN) — Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, died at his Los Angeles home Friday. That’s according to his son Adam Nimoy.

The 83-year-old was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease he attributed to his years of smoking.

Nimoy was hospitalized earlier this week.

Nimoy’s career in show business spanned more than six decades and included stints as a stage actor, television guest star, series regular, and movie veteran. He also directed a handful of films, including the box office hit Three Men and a Baby in 1987.

The New York Times reports that Nimoy is survived by his two children, a stepson, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Florence Movie Theater Reopens

popcornFLORENCE, Ore. — Movie theater popcorn is available once more in the city of Florence, thanks to the success of a recent Kickstarter campaign.

The new owner of City Lights Cinemas was on vacation with his wife when they saw the place had been forced to close because it was unable to afford the digital transition.

Strong supporters of the arts, the couple was compelled to bring cinema back into the coastal town in a new way, showing commercial, independent and performing arts films.

“I felt like we could move beyond what didn’t work before and embrace a brand new model, which we’re calling the hybrid model, and try to prove that small towns can still be a magnet for the arts,” said Michael Falter, cinema co-owner.

The doors just opened about a month ago, but the owners say things have gone well. They are hopeful that things will pick back up as fall weather rolls in and folks are looking for ways to stay dry.

Sprout Film Festival Gives Hope

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Sitting across the table from a beautiful actress I must remind myself that for many, Monica Venice is considered a person with a disability. Dressed in a pink sequined hat and a beautiful black and floral print sleeveless dress, this 48 year old is ready to talk about what she loves best about performing, the applause.

Yes, honesty is not difficult for someone like Monica. You ask her a question and she thinks of just one thing, the answer. She has no time for playing it safe or wondering what people will think. This is something I love about my friends who experience life as Monica does.

Sprout Poster

She’s attends the Sprout Film Festival, every year. As she adds up the numbers in her head she says, “that makes four.” At one of those festivals she saw a movie that inspired her, or at least fanned a flame of acting that was stirring in her soul.

The movie, Up Syndrome, is about someone like her. A young man diagnosed with Downs Syndrome but see’s life as more up than down.

Now, Monica is a regular at the Cottage Theater in Cottage Grove. She creates and builds sets and props. She’s had two roles in plays such as Gypsy and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. When she’s not working or acting you will find her trying on costumes at the theater and laughing a lot. She especially likes trying on the blonde curly wigs.

Culture tends to create barriers to those who are different. Art, theater, music and dance bridges those gaps and puts everyone on an equal playing field.

Expression is not limited to spectrums or labels in fact, oftentimes you find expression much easier when you don’t completely fit in.

The Sprout Film Festival is a chance to discover a different aspect of art, a place where performing unlocks not just opportunity but puts a spotlight on prejudice and assumptions that don’t always add up.

I encourage you to get your tickets to this most amazing event coming to Springfield, Oregon March 14th.

You will be touched by what you see and perhaps you will leave the Wildish Theater with a little better understanding of what is truly possible when you look just beyond what you thought to be true.

Tickets at http://www.fullaccess.org

Film Fanatic: Breaking Down the Oscar Nominations

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2014 Oscar Nominations Analysis 

The nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning.  American Hustle and Gravity lead the way with 10 nominations apiece with 12 Years a Slave right behind them with 9 nominations.

American Hustle-Collider
‘American Hustle’ was the big winner from the nominations announcement. | (Collider)

Hustle is undoubtedly the biggest winner from this announcement as most of the film’s nominations are from major categories.  Gravity received Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress nods while the rest of its nominations were for technical categories.

BEST PICTURE

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

For the third year in a row, nine films made it into the Best Picture category and the two surprises have to be Philomena and Dallas Buyers Club.  Two of the smaller films this year, the thought was that one of the two would be nominated while the other would miss the cut over more mainstream fare like Saving Mr. Banks.  But for once the Academy rewarded independent films with strong performances and screenplays.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • David O. Russell – American Hustle
  • Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
  • Alexander Payne – Nebraska
  • Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
  • Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

The directing category didn’t really have any surprises (unlike last year when Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Argo), but I would have liked to have seen Paul Greengrass get nominated for his work on Captain Phillips.  It isn’t easy creating and sustaining tension and action in one location and Greengrass definitely pulled it off with the majority of Phillips taking place on a boat (and an even smaller boat for the last 40 minutes).

BEST ACTOR

  • Christian Bale – American Hustle
  • Bruce Dern – Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

The Best Actor category was also pretty predictable.  Bruce Dern getting nominated over Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Robert Redford (All Is Lost) was really the only surprise.  Apparently men lost at sea isn’t very compelling or noteworthy to the Academy.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams – American Hustle
  • Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
  • Sandra Bullock – Gravity
  • Judi Dench – Philomena
  • Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

The only real surprise in the Best Actress category to me anyway was Sandra Bullock’s nomination for Gravity.  Yes, she did a great job basically carrying the entire film since she was the only person in it for the majority of it, but an effects-driven film rarely gets acting nominations.  I guess the Academy likes seeing females in survival situations over their male counterparts (see the last paragraph).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
  • Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
  • Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
  • Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Jonah Hill is really happy about his second Oscar nomination. | (TheWrap)

 

How about Barkhad Abdi!  He goes from being a limo driver in Minnesota to an Academy Award nominated actor.  Good for him.  Jonah Hill now has two Oscar nominations.  Think about that awkward, weird, kind of creepy kid you saw in that one scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and realize he’s now a multiple nominee.  Amazing how far he’s come.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
  • Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
  • Lupita Nyong’O – 12 Years a Slave
  • Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
  • June Squibb – Nebraska

Sally Hawkins is the big surprise here.  She beat out Oprah!  Not many people can say they’ve beaten Oprah at anything.  If I were her, I’d be more excited about that because she has no shot of actually winning the Oscar.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell – American Hustle
  • Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
  • Craig Borton, Melissa Warlick – Dallas Buyers Club
  • Spike Jonze – Her
  • Bob Nelson – Nebraska 

Dallas Buyers Club sneaks its way into another category.  Woody Allen is the Meryl Streep of the original screenplay category.  If he writes his name down on a piece of paper he gets a nomination.  Spike Jonze needs to work more.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight
  • Billy Ray – Captain Phillips
  • Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope – Philomena
  • John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
  • Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street
Before Midnight-vanityfair.com
‘Before Midnight.’ | (vanityfair.com)

As for the Adapted Screenplay category, seeing Linklater, Delpy and Hawke nominated for Before Midnight is a wonderful sight and I hope people seek out the most underrated and under-appreciated trilogy ever conceived.  Also great to see Steve Coogan nominated for an Oscar.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • The Broken Circle Breakdown
  • The Great Beauty
  • The Hunt
  • The Missing Picture
  • Omar

Sadly I haven’t seen any of these films but The Hunt is supposedly a great film and it’s on Netflix Instant.  I smell an instant pick on WDTWG coming soon.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • The Croods
  • Despicable Me 2
  • Ernest & Celestine
  • Frozen
  • The Wind Rises

No love for Pixar all of a sudden.  Monsters University received mostly positive reviews when it came out, but apparently the Pixar creative rut continues.  I think we can all assume Frozen is taking home this trophy.

Other snubs and surprises

Have the Coen Brothers upset the Academy?  Only two nominations for cinematography and sound mixing.  I thought the Academy liked depressing movies.

If you’re wondering why Blue is the Warmest Color didn’t get nominated for Best Foreign Film, it’s because it’s rated NC-17 and wasn’t submitted by French authorities due to its explicit content.  Since when are the French prudes?

Stories We Tell and Blackfish getting shut out of the Best Documentary category is a surprise.  Both received great reviews and the latter has gotten a lot of attention since its release which is usually beneficial for Oscar campaigning season.

Prisoners, which came out in September (not that long ago), only got one nomination for cinematography.  The performances were terrific and despite its 2-and-a-half-hour running time, the film was compelling and dramatic.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling had three nominees: Dallas Buyers Club, The Lone Ranger and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.  Did you see American Hustle Academy?  Those hairdos deserved recognition.  Do I now live in a world where Jackass is an Academy Award nominated film?

Tune in for the Oscars on March 2 on ABC.

 

Another 10 Horror Films To Watch This Halloween

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"28 Days Later" is one of the best zombie films out there. Scary movies have a way of putting us in the mood for Halloween whether that’s by scaring us, stirring up nostalgia, or having a good laugh at the things that made us scared when we were kids. For me, horror films are an integral part of Halloween and hopefully these suggestions will help you find something to watch this last week of the Halloween season. Enjoy:

1. 28 Days Later: What would it be like to wake up after long after surgery to a world gone mad with rage-infected zombies? Cillian Murphy stars in this raw film that explores the good and evil humans are capable of when things are at their worst. This film is a breath of fresh air in the zombie genre, and also one of the best in the zombie genre.

2. Disney’s Halloween Treat: Classic characters such as Donald Duck, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse appear in this mashup of creepy Disney cartoons. There are also clips from Disney films such as “Snow White,” and “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.” If you love classic Disney cartoons or you’re looking for something to watch with your kids this, is a gem. The only way I know how to watch this is on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ-Gol7gUrg&noredirect=1

3. The Lords of Salem: In this Rob Zombie film, a strange album mysteriously shows up at a Salem, Mass. radio station and DJ Heidi hawthorne’s (played by Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie) life takes a turn for the worst as she learns more about an evil witch coven from Salem’s history. Like other Rob Zombie films, The Lords of Salem is gnarly and scary and in my opinion not suitable for children. 

Heidi Hawthorne is feeling bewitched on "The Lords of Salem."
Heidi Hawthorne is feeling bewitched on “The Lords of Salem.”

4. Pet Cemetery: To what length would you go to to bring a loved one back to life? A young family buys a house in the Maine countryside and life is peachy, but local folklore and an untimely death are a recipe for disaster. Stephen King cameos as a pastor in this adaptation of one of his books.

5. The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror: Not a movie, but o’ well. “The Simpsons” has been killing it with their Halloween specials for more than 20 years. Lampooning popular horror films and putting the world of “The Simpsons” through original terrors, these episodes will leave you LOLing or ROFLing. Each episode is divided into three short cartoons. I Tunes offers Treehouse of Horror collections, or you can borrow the discs from that one friend who owns every season.

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

6. VHS: When amateur filmmakers are tasked with stealing a VHS tape from an old man’s house, they stumble upon a collection of VHS tapes filled with raw footage of supernatural happenings. Filmed in the found-footage style and formatted into short films, VHS was surprisingly original and scary. This film is on the grittier side of the horror movie spectrum. 

7. This is the End: James Franco is throwing a big party and it’s the end of the world. Cameos abound in this Judd Apatow film where actors play themselves. I think this was the funniest movie to come out all year, but the movie was packed with elements of the supernatural and horror. 

9. Halloween: The original “Halloween” is the only way to see this film. Michael Myers, the masked psychopath who kills on Halloween night, is the last person I would ever want to see lurking in the shadows. A young Jamie Lee Curtis stars in this classic that launched one of the most successful horror franchises. The sequels to “Halloween” aren’t bad either.

10. Trick ‘r Treat: Four spooky tales chalked full of vampires, psychopaths and trick-or-treaters are intertwined into one Halloween night, leaving people dead in their wake. There is a subtle-and-dry sense of humor in the movie that had me chuckling. Anna Paquin and Leslie Bibb are star in this film.

Looking for more scary movies to watch?
Read: 10 Horror Films To Watch This Halloween
Read: 10 More Horror Films to Watch This Halloween

 

 

Where Did The Week Go…

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Men’s Warehouse Guy Fired

There’s very few things a person can guarantee in life.  But George Zimmer managed to find one with his catchy line, “You’re gonna like the way ya look, I guarantee it,” in regards to a man purchasing and wearing a suit from apparel retailer Men’s Wearhouse.

For years Zimmer has observed and spoken (with his two packs-a-day/Scotch voice) about the appeal of wearing a nice suit.  No doubt drawing inspiration for The Most Interesting Man in the World, Zimmer has always appeared cool, calm and collected in those commercials.  I’d be fascinated to see his demeanor now after being ousted by his own company.

George Zimmer-Patrick Fallon:Bloomberg
George Zimmer | (Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg)

The Men’s Wearhouse Inc fired Executive Chairman Zimmer, the face of the company he founded 40 years ago, sending its shares down as much as 6 percent.

Men’s Wearhouse gave no reason for his dismissal but Zimmer accused the board of trying to silence him for expressing concerns about the direction of the company he started in 1973.

In a statement released by Zimmer, he expressed his disappointment over the board’s unwillingness to create an open dialogue on the future of the company.

“Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the boardroom that has, in part, contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns…”

Zimmer was president from 1974 to 1997 and chief executive from 1991 until June 2011 when he became executive chairman.  The company had seen sales rise by more than 5 percent in its most recent quarter so the news of Zimmer’s dismissal are a little puzzling.

Let’s be honest, all I really care about is whether or not we’ll get any more commercials from this guy.  According to reports, the company has the legal right to his image and 500 hours of footage.  You’re going to see more of Mr. Zimmer, I guarantee it.

Jerry Seinfeld Online Comedy Show Returns 

One of the best things going on the web is Jerry Seinfeld’s literally titled series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee The show is simple; Jerry chooses a vintage car, calls up a comedian friend of his for a cup of coffee, and documents the whole experience with cameras mounted in the car. 

Jerry Seinfeld-EW
Jerry Seinfeld | (Entertainment Weekly)

Episodes usually last for about 15 minutes and they consist of Jerry just having a casual conversation with a fellow comedian.  Sometimes they talk about comedy, sometimes they talk about lousy waiters and small dogs.  You know, nothing.  Despite the simplicity of the show, it’s endlessly fascinating and engaging.  Seeing Seinfeld and someone like David Letterman just walking down the street talking like a couple of regular fellas is a sight to behold.

Season one featured interviews with Alec Baldwin, Larry David, Ricky Gervais and Mel Brooks.  Episodes featuring Sarah Silverman and David Letterman have already aired in the second season and future guests include Chris Rock and Seth Meyers.

If you have 15 minutes, please check this out.  Instead of the usually scripted talk show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee offers an intimate and organic experience between two artists.  Plus the close-up shots of coffee being made is surprisingly enticing.  And this is coming from someone who doesn’t drink the stuff.

Netflix Instant Pick: A League of Their Own

When people talk about great baseball movies, the usual suspects include Pride of the Yankees, The Natural, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and Major League.  I’d like to add 61*, Baseball: Ken Burns Documentary and The Sandlot to that conversation too if I may.

But another one that is often over-looked is Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own.  Set during World War II, the film chronicles the real-life women’s baseball league that was formed at a time when baseball couldn’t afford to be absent.  Starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks and Lori Petty, A League of Their Own is an entertaining and often funny team sports movie about sibling rivalry, friendships and the joy and hardship of baseball.

Davis and Petty play sisters from Oregon who are wooed by a scout to join the start-up league.  Loving the idea of playing baseball for a living, the pair quickly learn that it’s not all fun and games.  They must deal with an unruly manager (Hanks), gender stereotypes and a lack of fans.

A league of their own-imdb
A League of Their Own | (IMDB)

The film works because the cast is endlessly likable and the baseball scenes are entertaining and credible.  You really believe these ladies trained to play baseball.  Davis and Petty feel like real sisters and the rest of the team, including Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, have memorable lines and scenes that raise their characters beyond one dimensional.

And then of course there’s Tom Hanks as the washed up Jimmy Dugan.  Hanks gained 30 pounds for this role and he’s never had more fun.  The classic “There’s no crying in baseball” scene is of course great, but there’s also great little moments featuring Hanks and Davis.  The Dugan character could have easily been played as nothing more than a drunken buffoon for comedic relief, but credit Marshall, the writers and Hanks for allowing Dugan to follow a real character arc throughout the film.

A League of Their Own truly is in a league of its own.  It’s surprisingly hilarious at times and full of heart and tenderness without ever seeming sentimental.  Plus it ends on a note that feels both unconventional and sweet.

Iron Man Robs Bank

Earlier this week, Robert Downey Jr. finally settled contract disputes with Marvel and signed a two-picture deal to appear in two Avengers sequels.  However, it seems Iron Man couldn’t wait that long to get paid.

The same day Downey Jr. likely signed his contract, a man wearing an Iron Man mask robbed a bank in Florida.

http://youtu.be/Iv0_r7nUeXs

According to Deadline, Flagler County Sheriffs say the 5-foot-4 gunman (maybe it was Scarlett Johansson asking for more money.  Or Mark Ruffalo.  Seriously, that dude is short) showed up in a Palm Beach Wells Fargo branch and demanded cash on Thursday afternoon.  Trading the cumbersome and heavy metal suit for a tan jump suit, the person jumped on the counter Heat-style and waived a gun around.  The robber then decided to avoid drawing attention flying away and instead drove off in an unassuming maroon car.

Just when we all thought Downey Jr. had fully-rehabilitated himself, he goes and robs a bank.  And…shrinks.

Cutting the Cable: Week 2

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Cutting the Cable Cord: Week 2

Well here we are, 8 days after turning all of our cable boxes in anpoltergeistd telling Comcast to take their $130 cable bundles and shove em… And I’ll be Mayan’d… The world didn’t friggin end! Yet.

The true cord-cutters test will come this Sunday evening when we have friends over to watch the Walking Dead and we’re able to pull it off without a hitch. On the other hand, I am starting to believe that I was only afraid of losing cable because cable wanted me to be afraid of losing it. With the set up we have going now, and thanks to some late-night homework on my part, I believe I’m more than prepared for any of my family’s audio/video entertainment needs.

house-of-cards-posterThe name of the game in cord-cutting is cover your bases. You know there is a show you like and you know when it’s on and what channel, there are ways to get those shows as early as 15 minutes after they air. There’s the standards, like Netflix, which has become the cord-cutters banner for streaming media. Seriously, they have about two-thirds of any TV show, movie, or cartoon you could ever want to watch… for $8 a month. Sold. The most exciting thing about Netflix is their original programming. We watched House of Cards a few weeks ago, and it was exceptionally compulsive television. Produced and directed by David Fincher, one of the most talented filmmakers on the planet, Netflix made the bold move of releasing the entire season at once. They plan on doing the same thing for their next original show, the resurrected Arrested Development. However, besides original programming, they don’t add newer content ever… So Netflix is really good for a video library of all the old stuff you love and maybe want to watch or catch up on… But new episodes of Breaking Bad won’t be on until a year after they air.

Then there is Amazon Instant Video. I’m not 100%, but I think these guys get most their new episodes the next day, in full HD (except for HBO, and I’ll talk about that later). Although I have not tried it yet, this is a great option. I hear Hulu Plus is good, but no AMC, no money from me. I can get it elsewhere. Then there is iTunes… but with Apple, I love their technology but I hate dealing with them in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure I’m missing a few others, but only because I want to get to the meat and potatoes of my point here.

xbmc1My point is XBMC, which I find amusing because it comes from the Xbox which I’ve never owned, and often bashed for its lameness. If I wanted a Wii or an Xbox I’d buy one, but I’m a serious gamer. XBMC is a FREE multi-media player that runs on your computer and organizes all of your movies, shows, music, games, all in one place… and then you plug in your TV as your monitor and GO! I took an “old” Dell Optiplex 960, while not the best machine, still has a few cores to work with, and I simply ran an HDMI cord from the back of the PC to our plasma screen in the living room. Then I tucked it out of the way, turned it on, and let it know where my audio and video files were. Then it sprang to life.

XB uses online databases and scans your library, then throws it all together in a nice user-friendly format that’s completely customizable. You don’t like the way the cross-media bar looks or works? Change it. There are websites full of skins for it, and all of them have individual settings you can adjust to make it how you want it. Then the features! It allows you to use “add-ons” that let you access all manner of live tv, streaming video, all from sites like Hulu, Amazon, Comedy Central, any place that has their shows online for free, you can watch through XB. Instead of going to ABC.com to watch Once Upon a Time, it serves it for you. There are also add-ons that link to material that is slightly less than legally streamed, but it’s not against the law per se to watch, depending on your morality stance and your patience with non-HD content. I tried one for academic purposes only and watched the latest episode of The Americans 15 minutes after it aired on cable. Whoever is streaming these shows is on the ball.

xbmc-ios-remoteThen there’s the remote. Guess what? It’s an app. It’s a really cool app. It not only has the remote as a touch-screen on your phone but it allows you to browse your library on your phone as well. Want to watch a movie? Pull up your XBMC remote, look through your library, then hit “play.” It’s that easy. Oh, and did I mention Air Play? WITHOUT APPLE TV. Yes that means all you suckers who paid hundreds for your fancy little boxes got just that… Fancy little boxes. I can be looking at the IMDB app on my phone, see a trailer I want to watch, and throw it up to the TV from anywhere in my house. If I’m watching or listening to something on my phone I want to put on the plasma screen I tap one button. I love it.

There’s also a nice little app called Splashtop 2 for the iPhone and iPad that will stream any (wirelessly) connected computer to either device. I’ve had this awesome app for a year now, it lets me play Eve Online while I’m not sitting at my computer. It lets me control the Dell from the couch… Or the shower for that matter. So if XB dies I just open Splashtop, start it up again, and go! I’m still working out the kinks, but so far it’s worked fairly seamlessly. We tried it again last night for academic purposes, we chose a cool add-on program called “Navi-X” that hosts a ton of streaming content. There are a few dedicated genre playlists that people have created, and of course we found ourselves looking through the Sci-Fi movies. There was practically every popular contemporary science fiction movie in that list. My wife had never seen Solaris with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone (Karen from Californication), so we gave it a shot. The best part? All of them are 720p, high-def streams!

photo-3Well technology wouldn’t be technology without a few hiccups, and of course 10 minutes into the movie it stopped and we couldn’t get it started again. So with a little ingenuity I was able to find a copy within minutes and we were back up and running… And that seems to be the way it is without cable. Cable is a product, served up for a specific reason and has been updated, perfected, and worked on for decades. It’s designed to bring you TV and movies seamlessly, and it does. The issue is that mega-corporations that truly don’t care about anything other than the bottom line supply that product. All of this new technology is only a few years old, there are still a million bugs to work out, so it’s expected that not everything is going to work 100% of the time… But it better come Walking Dead time I tell you!

game-of-thrones-season-3-posters-jaime1Game of Thrones starts next weekend, and I’m curious as to how soon I’ll be able to get HD episodes from Amazon… Since HBO wants everyone to use their HBO Go app now, and you can only use that if you have a current cable package with an HBO subscription. Why doesn’t HBO simply make their Go app a stand alone product? Some of us can’t afford to fork over hundreds a month just to get one show! I’d gladly pay HBO a flat fee a month to be able to watch their brilliant programming… But they are so in deep with their cable company partners they can’t even rock the boat without fear of losing what? Their bottom line. I think they could more than cover their losses by making HBO Go a subscription-based service, and bring it to the millions out there who have to pirate Game of Thrones because they is no other way to watch it.

Long story long, between the PS3 and the XBMC, I think we’re covered. I can get any show just a few hours after it airs, live TV broadcasts, March Madness, and tons of other stuff. So far, cutting the cable has worked okay, however it has only soured me even more for the cable companies. It’s not a jealousy thing either, it’s a have-and-have-nots thing. If we could occupy Time Warner I think it would be a great idea… But what are the options? Pirate movies? Oooo, that’ll show em. Protest? That only gives them more ammunition. I suppose grass-roots legislation, but I’m fairly sure they’ve got their backs covered on that one.

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Film Fanatic

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Steven Soderbergh’s final film opening this week

One of our greatest filmmakers is calling it quits at the age of 50. Steven Soderbergh, the man whose body of work ranges from independent fair (Sex, Lies, and Videotape, King of the Hill), to critically acclaimed (Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic), to blockbuster (Ocean’s Trilogy, Magic Mike) and experimental (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience) has decided to stop suddenly.

His last theatrical film, Side Effects, opens this weekend and his final film, the HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, will debut later this summer.

He’s hinted that he will focus more on photography and painting, but Soderbergh said recently that he just wants to experience different things creatively.

Contagion - Director Steven Soderbergh
Soderbergh directing Contagion.

“It’s just going to be different stuff. I don’t think I could ever sit still and do nothing. It’s just going to be different stuff. In the hopes that maybe by exploring some other avenues I can find another way in to this job and reboot somehow. It’s something I’ve been planning for a while and I get those feelings of I just know something’s got to change, so five years ago I decided pretty much to follow the plan that I followed,” said Soderbergh in an interview with Collider.

Judging by the diversity of his last few films and the fact that he’s essentially made a movie every year for the last twenty, it appears that he’s both bored and burned out. For a man who not only directs, shoots and edits his films, but also produces others, the guy could use a break. But I wouldn’t bet on this being the end for him.

Michael Jordan once said he was “99.9 percent sure” he was retired and then came back. Perhaps Soderbergh is aware of his legacy like one of his fellow filmmakers. During press for Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino mentioned that he too would probably hang up the camera sooner rather than later because he didn’t want his overall body of work to be stunted by a bad film later on.

While Soderbergh’s filmography isn’t perfect, the ratio of hits to misses for him is still better than most. What I admired most about him was his need to maintain his independent roots even when he was making bigger studio films. Whether that was using different color tints in sections of Traffic or mounting a camera to the back of a car as Brad Pitt and George Clooney drove at night through downtown Los Angeles or his signature shot of a character being out of focus only to walk into it, he seemed to be unafraid of trying different things.

Watch Traffic or the Ocean’s Trilogy or Contagion and you can see a filmmaker telling great stories on a smaller scale despite the subject being on an epic scale.

He was never flashy, just consistently good. From action to comedy to biopics, Soderbergh always seemed to want a new challenge. And yet no matter the genre he tackled, you always knew when you were watching one of his films. That’s the mark of a truly great filmmaker. One that can bounce from one subject as diverse as the next and still maintain a unique and distinctive visual style.

Trailer of the week: Fast & Furious 6

As I mentioned in Film Fanatic last week, one of the things I look forward to during the Super Bowl is the new movie trailers that debut. The one I was looking forward to the most was of Fast & Furious 6 because there hadn’t been any footage of it yet. The spot was short (even Universal doesn’t want to shell out more than $3.8 million for 30 seconds), but what I saw was kind of insane.

Now just a few days after the game, Universal has released a full-length trailer for the sixth installment of the drive fast, look cool doing it and eat barbeque with family series. Judging by the footage, moviegoers like myself who were shocked by how good Fast Five was will probably be equally blown away by what Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner have in store for us this time.

Seriously, this franchise was dead. After the third installment sans Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (his cameo at the end doesn’t really count) bombed, this series was DOA. But after the two leads career’s began to flounder (Diesel’s in particular), they decided to go back to what they knew; stand next to cars, drive cars real fast and flip cars and walk away.

Thrown in Under-Armor wearing Dwayne Johnson, a couple of one-name actors from previous installments (Ludacris and Tyrese) and a significantly higher budget and you have a complete reinvention of a franchise. After seeing this trailer, am I the only one more excited for this than Iron Man 3?

Movie trivia of the week

When Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson all passed, which actor was cast as one of the most iconic action heroes ever and for which film?

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