Tag Archives | Movies

Now it's Hulu's Turn to Step on Netflix's Toes

A rivalry between Hulu and Netflix continues to silently brew. Where the two streaming services once had distinct roles — Hulu for television, Netflix for movies — they are increasingly overlapping.

To that end, Hulu just added 800 movies to its Hulu Plus subscription service, courtesy of Criterion Collection. The high-brow cinema of Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini and more can now be yours to stream for $8 per month.

The films will be uninterrupted by commercials, which will only roll before the movie starts. The free version of Hulu will get some Criterion Collection movies on a rotating basis, but they will be broken up by ads.

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Star Wars 3D Will Be a Moment of Truth

Unlike the most die-hard Star Wars fans, I have no strong opinion on whether Star Wars should be re-released in 3D, but when the conversion is finished and released in 2012, I think it will be a pivotal moment for 3D movies.

This is only partly because of Star Wars’ ability to draw a crowd. Of course, Star Wars 3D will bring people to theaters — assuming 3D hasn’t been dismissed as a cheap gimmick in two years, and that’s not a given — but it will also prove, or disprove, that 2D-to-3D conversion can be done in a way that doesn’t completely stink.

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Want Avatar on 3D Blu-ray? First, You'll Need a Panasonic TV

Nine months after Avatar’s theatrical release, it’s still regarded as the pinnacle of 3D entertainment. So it’s too bad that only buyers of Panasonic 3D televisions will get the movie when it’s released on 3D Blu-ray in December.

For an undisclosed period of time, Avatar will be bundled with Panasonic’s 3D televisions, and won’t be sold through any other means, Twice reports. Panasonic wants to make the movie available to people who have already purchased a Panasonic 3D TV, but is still working out the details. Avatar could be bundled with Panasonic 3D Blu-ray players and home theaters as well, but the company  wouldn’t confirm whether this is going to happen.

Avatar isn’t the first 3-D movie to be given exclusively to a single television brand — Samsung bundles Monsters vs. Aliens, and Panasonic has offered Coraline and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. TV makers lock down these deals to convey the idea that 3D content actually exists, and Hollywood studios like the deals because they provide a guaranteed return on the 3D investment.

But as CNet points out, Avatar will likely be the first live-action 3-D Blu-ray movie available in the United States. It’s a big deal, and locking it down to one TV maker is a short-sighted move by Panasonic and 20th Century Fox, one that puts their own interests ahead of 3D’s greater well-being. The exclusive Avatar deal might boost Panasonic’s sales this holiday season, but when prospective buyers learn that almost every other 3D Blu-ray disc is also tied down to specific televisions, at the expense of having lots of movies on store shelves, they might sour on the idea of 3D TV altogether.


A Path to Save Blockbuster?

Is copying Redbox’s strategy a way for Blockbuster to survive? I’m beginning to think so.

Earlier this week, I rented from a Redbox for the first time. I have walked by these kiosks in our area for well over a year now, and in recent months they’ve become quite numerous — Redbox lists 19 of them within 10 miles of my house alone. The allure of a movie for just a buck a night is just too good of a deal to pass up.

While entering my selections into the kiosk — Star Trek and Angels & Demons — I couldn’t help but wonder why Blockbuster wasn’t doing the same thing. Heck, it costs you $5 to rent these same movies at their stores no matter whether you return them the next day or however long your local store allows the movies to be out.

It’s for this reason why Blockbuster is struggling. In this new world, it no longer is worthwhile to have a storefront because of the overhead costs. Think about it. Netflix has considerably less infrastructure costs because all its business is online and only needs shipping warehouses to serve its customers; Redbox has even less overhead since it essentially freeloads off the locations where its kiosks sit.

There’s just no way that the company can be on a level playing field with its competitors because of this. Tuesday’s news of the company partnering with NCR to place 200 “Blockbuster Express” kiosks in Duane Reade Drugstores across New York City could arguably be Blockbuster’s path to salvation.

When the company is done, about 2,500 kiosks will be up and running around the country. Each will hold about 900 DVDs, which will give the movie retailer an opportunity to offer a wider selection than that of Redbox, which can only hold about 500 discs.

As the company moves to this system, it will allow Blockbuster to continue closing down its retail locations, which have become its Achilles heel. This will stink for those employees that could soon find themselves out of a job, but its just a reality of our modern digital economy.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Redbox responds. Blockbuster eliminated its competition by simply being able to offer a broader selection of movies than its smaller competitors, and now the company that arguably pioneered the movie rental kiosk finds itself in the same situation.

One thing it has so far as an advantage over Blockbuster is scale — some 17,500 kiosks are located in McDonald’s, Wal Marts, Walgreens, and other grocery and drug stores around the country. Blockbuster will need to quickly ramp up to legitimately compete.


Gaming in Theaters Sounds Cool, Won’t Be Easy

theaterscreenAs a gamer, I’m enamored with the idea of playing a shoot-em-up on a 50-foot screen, surrounded by Dolby audio. And I can’t be the only one.

Unfortunately, these incidents are rare, but on Monday and Tuesday, the stars will align, and Sony will let people in four U.S. theaters try the upcoming (and universally lauded) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Playstation 3.

If you don’t happen to live in Rosemont, Ill., Bellvue, Wash., San Francisco or Thousand Oaks, Calif., there’s good news: In a Reuters interview, Mike Fidler, Sony’s senior vice president of Digital Cinema Solutions and Services, suggests that this isn’t a one-off thing. In explaining that he wants more theaters to go digital, Fidler said that gaming “will be an important part of that equation.”

From Fidler’s remarks, it’s easy to dream up gaming nights, or perhaps the ability to rent out a theater for an evening of Killzone 2. A Canadian chain already does this during off-peak times, for the totally reasonable price of $169 for two hours and up to 12 people (a movie ticket doesn’t cost that much less at that rate).

Not to be a party pooper, but I see a major roadblock here. The best big-screen games — shooters and racing games — can at most be enjoyed by four people at a time, and even splitting the screen reduces the coolness factor. Given that a movie theater is designed to entertain lots of people, you’d be looking at minimal playing time with any more than a dozen participants. And let’s face it, most games aren’t that fun to watch from the sidelines.

If Sony does get the Playstation 3 into more theaters, I’m sure the Uncharted 2 event won’t be the last of its kind, but for most of us, I have a feeling that any significant gaming time in a theater will remain a fantasy.


Seriously, Asteroids The Movie?

asteroids1According to The Hollywood Reporter, the classic 1979 arcade game Asteroids will be made into a movie.

No joke, Universal has picked up the film rights, prevailing in a bidding war against three other studios. Matthew Lopez, whose writing credits include Race to Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories, will pen the script. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced both Transformers movies and, fittingly, Doom, will be the producer.

Now, I tend to be skeptical when it comes to nostalgia acts — I skipped the 2007 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie on principle — but this idea is truly wacky. We’re of course talking about a video game that had no plot, no characters and really, no reason to be reincarnated in any form. Asteroids is a game whose most interesting development is the occasional appearance of a flying saucer that fires bullets at random angles (so you can bet this movie will have aliens!).

One could argue that Asteroids’ complete lack of substance opens the door to limitless possibilities, but then isn’t this movie just a cheap use of name recognition to cover for generic space opera? Unless Asteroids the movie features an endless battle against free-floating rocks, complete with ruminations on the inevitability of death, I won’t be moved.


RealDVD on Trial

RealDVD logoRealDVD, the DVD-copying application from Real which I reviewed back in September during the brief period it was available before Hollywood stepped in and convinced a court to yank it, is fighting for its life in a San Francisco court. Wired has a good report on the proceedings so far. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but reading it leaves me thinking that U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is inclined to side with Hollywood, not with Real and with the notion that consumers have the right to duplicates DVDs in a way that preserves copy protection, puts extreme limitations on what they can do with the copies, and makes it impossible for them to distribute them via file-sharing networks.

If RealDVD is ruled to be illegal, it’ll be sad. It’ll also be kind of silly.  Kaleidescape makes a neat home entertainment system that does something very similar to what RealDVD does–for thousands of dollars. Telestream’s $39 Drive-In is also much like RealDVD–but it runs only on Macs. And we seem to be nowhere near any scenario that involves users of DVD rippers such as Handbrake–which override copy protection altogether–being thrown in jail.

Basically, the only thing that prohibiting release of RealDVD does is to prevent Windows users who aren’t all that well-heeled–and who bend over backwards to respect copy protection–from creating digital copies of their DVDs for personal use. Everybody else can go on merrily copying their movies. Remind me again just what purpose would be served by eliminating it from the market?