Monday This n That – Hulu and AMC vs Regal

Hulu

 

* Hulu just sent me a notice that their subscription service will no longer be called Hulu Plus. Instead it will just be Hulu. No other changes, just a slight rebranding.

AMC Theater

 

* Since Regal is trying to come up with a rewards program that is more compelling than AMC Stubs (and presumably charge for it once it gets off the ground, again a la Stubs), AMC is upstaging Regal’s wonderful recliner program.

AMC Recliner

Introducing Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime: “Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime combines the most powerful image and sound technologies with cutting-edge, reserved recliners.” I loved the Regal recliners in Charlotte and enjoyed the reserved seating (you can buy tickets online and always save your favorite seat without waiting in huge lines). I haven’t had the opportunity to try the AMC power recliners but they are supposed to ‘pulsate with the action’ so a low bass effect, perhaps?

AMC has the program active at AMC North Point Mall 12 in Georgia, AMC BarryWoods 24 in Missouri, and AMC Deerbrook 24 in Texas. Additional rollouts are expected shortly in California, Kansas, New York, Texas, and Illinois.

Hulu Plus Plus Plus

Hulu

Hulu has really been upping their game lately. Obviously they have to work overtime to keep customers over the summer. Once all of the fall shows have had their finales and before they come back, what is there to watch on Hulu?

Adventure Time

In addition to 23 series from Adult Swim (I’m still looking forward to trying out Black Dynamite), Hulu added 10 for kids (Adventure Time, Samurai Jack, Ben 10, Regular Show, Dexter’s Laboratory, Ben 10 Omniverse, Flapjack, Foster, Gumball, and Steven Universe) from Cartoon Network.

They also have quite a few exclusives, such as Murder in the First. When the Mindy Kaling show was canceled by the network, Hulu snatched it up. I love the idea of streaming services rescuing worthy (and not-so-worthy) shows from oblivion.

Seinfeld

Taking a page out the Netflix playbook, Hulu has snagged the rights to the entire series of Seinfeld. They are obviously hoping that people will binge watch it as they did when Netflix acquired Friends early this year. Seinfeld starts June 24th.

As far as movies go, while they are not Hulu’s strong suit, Hulu still has an exclusive deal with Criterion to show almost their entire catalog. If you are interested in film history or the best of foreign cinema, definitely check them out.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 5/5/15 Plus Hulu

Some television shows and family movies that I missed on yesterday’s Netflix update plus a Hulu update below

Comedy: D. L. Hughley: Clear

Anita

Documentary: Anita

Nobody's Fool

Drama: Knockout, Nobody’s Fool

Family: The Amazing Wizard of Paws, Bratz: Good Vibes, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, Lalaloopsy: Festival of Sugary Sweets, LeapFrog: Word Explorers, Wizards of Waverly Place

Television: Little Einsteins, Liv and Maddie, Sofia the First, Mighty Med, and new episodes of Special Agent Oso, Lab Rats, Quincy M.E., Kickin’ It, Switched at Birth, Melissa & Joey, and Royal Pains

Hulu

 

If you were thinking of ditching your Hulu Plus subscription because all the regular show seasons are coming to a close, Hulu would like you to think again. They recently made a huge deal with Adult Swim to stream full seasons of 23 of their biggest shows.

After thoroughly enjoying Michael Jai White in Black Dynamite, I’m pleased to get a chance to watch the animated series. Robot Chicken, Rick and Morty, Venture Bros. Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and lots more are available for animation fans to binge on.

Spoilers – Entertainment Weekly and Kevin Smith

“A bad day at the movies is still better than a good day exercising.”

I normally never post spoilers. I am basically the anti-Entertainment Weekly. For those who don’t know, EW regularly spoils shows and movies just after they’ve aired. Recently they spoiled a major plot point from the third season of American Horror Story on the cover of their magazine BEFORE the episode even aired.

I have learned to skim or avoid any article about things I like. That said, a spoiler I do like is Kevin Smith’s movie series, Spoilers.

Spoilers

 

Spoilers with Kevin Smith (2014) – not rated but foul language is used.

Watch “Spoilers”, Kevin Smith’s movie “revue.” Spoilers is a multi-act film extravaganza mixing lively group chats, interviews with movie and pop culture icons, animated shorts and cinematic reenactments. Each week, Kevin, a special guest and movie lovers passionately sound off on the year’s most anticipated summer blockbusters, breaking down their favorite scenes and what should have been left on the cutting room floor.

After a year and a half hiatus, Kevin Smith’s Spoilers has returned. The first seven episodes of the second season are now available on Hulu. I enjoyed the first season more but the second season is still worth watching.

As the title implies/states, the movies covered are often spoiled so viewer beware.

Breaking Bad

 

* I finally got to finish watching Breaking Bad with only one character arc having been spoiled for me (by Entertainment Weekly naturally). Of course I won’t spoil anything for you but I will say that the ending was leagues more satisfying than the rather poor wrap-up to Dexter.

Valentine’s Day This ‘n’ That

House of Cards

 

* What a nice Valentine’s Day present from Netflix – season two of House of Cards. This series is awesome (though not quite on par with the British original) and Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn are simply wonderful as a power couple.

Hulu

 

* Community is finally back. I caught the first two episodes of the new season on Hulu and they may have brought back the magic they lost last season.

Amazon Prime

 

* I forgot to mention that Amazon Prime has added season 4 of Justified to their instant offerings. We blitzed through all 13 episodes over the holidays and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Netflix Roku Hulu Plus This ‘n’ That

Roku 3* We recently replaced our Xbox with a Roku 3 because we got tired of paying Microsoft $60 every year for the privilege of watching Netflix. We hardly ever played games on it and when we did, it was not online. I love that you can plug earbuds into the remote to watch movies quietly while others are sleeping. I haven’t actually used that feature yet but I think it’s cool.

* It also comes preloaded with Angry Birds Space. Is there anyone out there who thinks of the Roku 3 as a gaming platform? They also sell, via their channel store, versions of Pac-Man and Galaga for $5 a pop.

Hulu Plus* That said, Hulu Plus’ interface on the Roku 3 is horrendous. I always tell Hulu my favorite shows and put them in queue a la Netflix. This is what I have to do to watch the latest Daily Show in my queue:

The top 2/3 of the screen is taken up by the shows Hulu is currently promoting. Going down to the menu below, I skip past TV, movies, trailers, and kids before scrolling offscreen to queue. I select queue which brings me to favorites (seriously). I go down to queue (again) and select The Daily Show. It puts me on Series Details (again seriously). I go down to a queued episode and select it. Even after all of that, it wants to know if I want to play it or remove from queue or get more details or go to the series page or even see some suggestions from Hulu.

Well, I have some suggestions for Hulu. The printable one is, get me out of this design hell. I swear that the designers of this are probably the sort who would like to bring back rotary phones for the sheer joy of watching people dial a ‘9’.

Netflix* Netflix is doing an admirable job of trying to address the complete mess that is their recommendation system. They now have profiles you can set up for the various members of your household. Hopefully that means that at some point, it will stop recommending all the Disney movies I watch with my granddaughter.

On the other hand, they still haven’t fixed the easiest part of their recommendation system. If I have both watched AND rated something, how can Netflix call it a recommendation? Once upon a time my entire set of ten recommendations were all movies and shows that I had both rated and watched on Netflix. At least now it is down to one, Supernatural.

Another one is that if I have put it into my personal queue, it isn’t really a recommendation either.

/rantmodeoff

* OOPS Department: ActionFest’s August offering is I Declare War on Thursday August 15th at 7:30 p.m. For some reason I listed July’s ActionFest date.

 

More from Netflix and CBS Joins Hulu

Woot! CBS will be joining Hulu in 2013. We cut cable a long time ago and now my wife will be able to get How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. Now if only there were some way to get HBO without cable…

Netflix streaming normally gives us a ton of content on the 1st and 15th of each month but this month there have been some interesting in-between releases I’d like to point out.

The Flowers of War (2011) – Rated R

“In 1937, as the Japanese army brutally invades the Chinese city of Nanking, an American mortician is trapped inside a western cathedral and vows to protect a group of young schoolgirls and 13 courtesans who are seeking refuge from the soldiers.”

I LOVE Yimou Zhang. Hero, House of the Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower are some of my favorite films so I’m very interested to see what he does with this story.

Lockout (2012) – Rated PG-13

“A former government agent wrongly accused of a crime gets a shot at freedom — if he can engineer a high-risk mission to outer space in order to rescue the president’s daughter from a prison where the inmates are in control.”

Lockout is utterly generic. It tries to be Escape from New York in space but is so by the numbers. Rarely have I seen a science fiction movie show this little imagination.

A Cat inParis (2010) – Rated PG

“In this Oscar-nominated animated feature, little Zoe discovers that her cat, Dino, moonlights as the companion to Nico, a burglar with a heart of gold. Soon Zoe is drawn into a thriller filled with gangsters, jewels and the rooftops of Paris.”

Netflix does not get enough animated feature films, let alone Oscar-nominated ones.

Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (2012) – Not rated

“In this action-packed adventure, the members of U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 train for a critical mission, initially unaware that their efforts will culminate in a daring nighttime raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.”

Hrrm – this was amazingly quick as it just aired on NatGeo. I’ll take a look but you are probably better off with Act of Valor if you want to see real modern tactics or waiting for Zero Dark Thirty at the theater for the hunt for Bin Laden story.

Bernie (2011) – Rated PG-13

“In this black comedy inspired by real-life events, affable Texas mortician Bernie befriends the small town’s wealthiest widow and then kills her. But despite the suspicious nature of her death, no one wants to think anything but the best of Bernie.”

I’m looking forward to watching this well-reviewed indie comedy.

Coma (2012) – Not rated

“In this made-for-cable miniseries based on Robin Cook’s bestselling novel, a doctor begins to suspect that something is amiss when several seemingly healthy patients begin lapsing into comas after routine operations.”

White Vengeance (2011) – Not rated

“As all of China falls into chaos during the final years of the Qin Dynasty, two brothers, powerful warlords Liu Bang and Xiang Fu, engage in a bloody battle to ascend the imperial throne — and to win the love of one woman.”

The Boys from Brazil (1978) – Rated R

“In this thriller based on Ira Levin’s novel, young Nazi hunter Barry Kohler stumbles on the trail of the infamous “Angel of Death,” Dr. Josef Mengele, who is planning to resurrect Hitler’s vision in South America.”

Ah yes, my kryptonite – a horror movie about Nazis. The Boys from Brazil has absolutely fantastic casting – stalwart American hero Gregory Peck playing Dr. Josef Mengele, Laurence Olivier as a Nazi hunter (a great counterpoint to his role in Marathon Man), the always reliable James Mason, and even a very young Steve Guttenberg.

 

 

50 Greatest Films Ever Made – Netflix 7, Amazon 4, Hulu 23!

Citizen Kane has finally been dethroned in Sight & Sound’s prestigious fifty greatest films list. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is the new reigning champion. Of the fifty greatest films ever made, Netflix currently has seven of these on instant:

8 1/2 (1963) – Not rated – Number 10

“Dog-tired movie director Guido Anselmi retreats to thoughts of yesteryear when his producers, his wife and his mistress all pressure him to start making another movie in director Federico Fellini’s rumination on the joys and rigors of filmmaking.”

The Battleship Potemkin (1925) – Not Rated – Number 11

“Propaganda notwithstanding, director Sergei M. Eisenstein’s masterwork remains a cinematic landmark, charting events that ultimately led to the Bolshevik Revolution. Fed up with the ship’s officers’ brutalities and with maggot-infested rations, the crew of the battleship Prince Potemkin revolts. The rebellion ignites an uprising by the citizens of Odessa, resulting in czarist troops’ infamous, systematic slaughter of insurgents and bystanders.”

Apocalypse Now (1979) – Rated R – Number 14

“The horror, the horror. Francis Ford Coppola disappeared into the Philippine jungle and emerged 2 years later with this film, possibly his greatest work. Based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the story follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) as he journeys upriver in search of the mysterious — and completely insane — Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). His mission: terminate Kurtz — “with extreme prejudice.””

The much longer (and by all accounts worse) Apocalypse Now Redux is also available.

Persona (1967) – Not rated – Number 17

“To achieve more effective treatment, a young nurse named Alma and her patient — actress Elisabet, who has stopped speaking — check into an isolated cottage by the sea, where one of them unravels.”

In the Mood for Love (2001) – Rated PG – Number 24

“In 1962 Hong Kong, neighboring married apartment-dwellers Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan discover that their spouses are having an affair. The two spend time together and find they have much in common, but vow never to behave like their unfaithful mates.”

The Bicycle Thief (1948) – Not Rated – Number 33

“Poverty-stricken Antonio needs his bicycle to do his new job. But the same day he buys it back from a pawnshop, someone steals it, prompting him to search the city in vain with his young son.”

Metropolis Restored (1927) – Not Rated – Number 35

“In the year 2026, when the populace is divided between workers who must live underground and the wealthy, who enjoy a futuristic city of splendor, a man from the upper class abandons his privileged life to join oppressed workers in a revolt.”

There is also a 1984 version of Metropolis from Giorgio Moroder.

Amazon Prime has The Searchers (#7), 8 1/2, The General (#34), and Metropolis (but an earlier non-restored version) so a whopping four titles.

Hulu Plus, which I normally don’t take into consideration as their movie choices are typically abysmal, actually has an unfair advantage here. Their exclusive deal with The Criterion Collection means they easily have the most. Hulu Plus has an astounding twenty-three of the top fifty (all from Criterion): Tokyo Story (#3), The Passion of Joan of Arc (#9), Battleship Potemkin, L’ Atalante (#12), Breathless (#13), Late Spring (#15), Au Hasard Balthazar (#16), Seven Samurai (#17), L’ Avventura (#21), Ordet (#24), Rashomon (#26), Andrei Rublev (#26 – tie), The General (#34), Metropolis (#35), Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (#35), The 400 Blows (#39), Gertrud (#42), Play Time (#42), Close-Up (#42), The Battle of Algiers (#48), City Lights (#50), Ugetsu monogatari (#50), and La Jetee (#50).

Hulu note: While Hulu’s interface has been updated, their search function is by far the worst. When I’m searching for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, I understand Gus Van Sant’s version showing up in the results or even Mary Harron’s delightful American Psycho. What I don’t want to see are a selection of 200 clips that might be related to my search.

Final note: You may notice a lot of duplicate numbers. That is because there were many ties for certain places.

A Little Hulu & Netflix This ‘n’ That

* The expectation is that Provident Equity will be bought out of Hulu next month. This would leave just ABC/Disney, NBC/Comcast and Fox/News Corp owning Hulu. According to Variety, Fox wants to increase ads from two or three per break to four (ugh!). ABC and Fox will be able to have exclusives on their own sites instead of Hulu (double ugh!). ABC and Fox will also be able to sell current seasons to other interested parties (Netflix, Youtube) so that could hurt Hulu.

* Hulu has also completely redesigned their interface. If it hasn’t rolled out to you yet, it will soon.

* Netflix has just added “Post Play”. Instead of just queueing up the next episode of a series, it will now play the next episode after about fifteen seconds. For movies it will offer you three suggestions based on what you just watched (presumably that one is not an auto-start). More good news for those of us who like to watch marathons (like the Breaking Bad one I’m hoping to do soon).

* Netflix’ latest deal is with indie film distributor Fortissimo. They are licensing over sixty films for streaming starting next month. The deal includes films from directors Jiang Wen, Mika Kaurismaki, and Clara Law.

* Netflix just hit one million subscribers in the United Kingdom and Ireland. How much longer before they rule the world?

* Netflix finally added people search to their Xbox 360 interface. Now you can watch all your favorite stars without having to remember whether Charlton Heston was in Touch of Evil or Force of Evil.


Help! I am being replaced by Hulu!

I am proud to wear many, many hats in my family. I make drinks, dinner, bake cookies, and pack lunches. I clean, do dishes, do laundry and make the bed. I am the go-to guy for spider sightings (though in those cases my name is often pronounced “AAAAAAH!”). I am also the guy that gets to answer the question, “who was that guy in that thing with that girl?” I’ve become fairly prescient in such matters, standing ready with the answer before the question is asked.

Hulu has a new feature called Hulu Face Match. All you have to do is hover your mouse pointer over an actor’s face and the show will pause and a pop-up will bring up the actors name, a mini-bio, and a link to their wiki. This is set to roll out to all of Hulu but currently works on episodes of Glee, Lost, The Office, Wilfred and Modern Family.

Netflix: I love the new Netflix app on Xbox 360. When I select How I Met Your Mother from my instant queue, it automagically plays the next episode. After that episode ends, it gives me the option of playing the following episode with one button press. It also doesn’t wait for the episode to finish to bring up this option – it’s available as soon as the credits begin to roll.

In addition – I no longer get that annoying reload screen when Netflix detects a slower/faster bandwidth change. Instead graphic quality is adjusted on the fly. I’m looking forward to these changes being rolled out on the Roku.