Decided To Renew Another Year

Seems like time to break the silence here since May when last posting.

Got sick, then got better. Got vaccinated. Life goes on.

Our domain was about to expire and literally waited until one day before it was gone to renew another year. Where have we been? What’s been happening? Life is the short answer. Change of time, energy and focus to another hobby of ours: videogames. Probably will be working on some resources for that, but maybe not here, maybe at another blog. Not quite sure what to do about here.

Still watching movies and reviewing them through my Letterboxd account, albeit much less frequently than the pace previously (at least one movie watched and reviewed per day). Feel a little like I don’t have much more to share regarding the movie and TV biz during the pandemic season, so maybe this becomes a bookend to our first post a couple years ago.

Of course there are always new movies and TV shows to watch. And we’ll always enjoy doing that. Perhaps we’ll continue to write about some of them here and there.

Definitely grew tired of tracking all the release date changes. It’s a little better now out there, but there are still some movie dates getting pushed around here and there. Now, when we want to see a movie we just pull up the AMC app or website, reserve our ticket and go.

Happy movie & TV watching to you all out there! Stay safe and good to each other.

HBO Max Hits 64 Million Paid Subscribers

Yes, they are a long ways from 200+ million, but the HBO Max paid subscriber count continues to inch closer to the 100+ million mark.

In its Q1 earnings report released this week, the company cited “first-quarter results that showed continuing customer growth in wireless, fiber and HBO Max and strong cash flows.” It further went on to cite 2.7 million total domestic HBO and HBO Max net new subscribers, further noting 44.2 million total domestic subscribers and almost 64 million global subscribers. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story, and buried in the fine print at the very bottom of the report, AT&T sort of breaks down how those figures work.

Those HBO Max Numbers Aren’t What They Seem

This is an increase in subscribers of approximately three million since the last time we wrote about this in January 2021 (see: Wonder Woman 1984 Helps HBO Max Gain 3+ Million Subscribers To 41.5 Million).

It’s fascinating that skeptics remain everywhere for HBO. They’ve been around since the 70s, I don’t think they’re going anywhere in the streaming race any time soon. No, they aren’t Netflix, but they have plenty of movies and TV properties to stay relevant for years to come, regardless if AT&T torpedoes them from time to time. Some people see the value in their content library (see: Tom’s Guide Article Declares HBO Max As Currently The Best Streaming Service)

Not scientific by any means, but we looked at how many movies we’ve watched across the various streaming services in 2021 so far as well as watched in theaters for comparison. Here are the numbers as of this writing (through 4/26/2021):

  1. Watched In theaters – 21
  2. HBO Max – 21
  3. Netflix – 16
  4. Amazon Prime Video – 14
  5. Hulu – 12
  6. Shudder – 10
  7. Paramount+ / CBS All Access – 8
  8. Peacock – 5
  9. Disney+ – 5

This list above through the first four months will be interesting to revisit at the end of the year — to compare and contrast.

The movies being watched (or rewatched) and reviewed are being organically chosen based on interest at the moment. We don’t go to HBO Max first, it just has the largest library of movies, both new and older that we want to see. Netflix is higher up the list because they release more new movies than any service. Some don’t appeal to us, like the new Melissa McCarthy movie we didn’t bother to watch, but they release far and away the most new movies, usually exclusives than any streaming service. This is their way of getting on streaming subscribers organically chosen list — and clearly it works with us.

Down the list in the middle comes no surprise with Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. They share some similarities in their respective movie libraries. Amazon Prime Video has way more movies, but a lot that you’ve never heard of. Hulu has a decent library of foreign titles.

At the bottom of the list comes Paramount+/CBS All Access, Peacock and Disney+. None of these three services release many new movies. Disney+ has the best existing library, perhaps followed closely by Peacock. Despite the name change, Paramount+ still has a comparatively small streaming movie library. It’s not all about quantity, but for movie lovers, there are better choices than Paramount+.

Speaking of quantity, Shudder is also middle of the road in the list above, but for horror they would be toward the top. For a niche streaming service, they have movies other services don’t have and are worth watching — if you like horror, of course. There are other niche streaming services that deserve attention. We were subscribed to Boomerang for animated shows, for example, and that has a good library too.

The ad-supported streaming channels aren’t being tracked through our Letterboxd list, but we do record them by tag. We don’t watch many of those channels, really, you can can’t the movies watched on one hand probably through the first four months. The answer is usually to do with the ads. Peacock has too many ads for their ad-supported version. Having ads come on frequently isn’t the way we want to watch movies. We could pay $4/more a month for Peacock without ads, but the movie library will need to be much more compelling to pay more.

We probably will try the HBO Max with ads offering to see how intrusive the ads are. If they are anything like Peacock, then we’ll go back to paying for the ad-free subscription tier.

What streaming channel are you watching the most movies on?

Here’s What Happened To Frankenstein’s Custom Death Race 2000 Corvette

Probably my most favorite car movie of the 70s was Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000. The movie starred Sylvester Stallone as Machine Gun Joe and David Carradine as Frankenstein. The cars were all designed with themes, including an alligator-look for Frankenstein’s mean green killing machine.

Curious whatever happened to the car, we Googled and learned it went from a display in a museum to a private collection in 2002 and ultimately auctioned off to another collector.

This car was designed by James Powers and constructed by Dean Jefferies, with additional work performed by George Barris prior to completion. It follows the movie’s storyline of being built from a hodge-podge of vehicles, featuring an unusual combination of a Volkswagen chassis, Corvair air-cooled, dual carburetor power plant with a 3-speed manual transmission and Corvette-style body riding on custom wheels and BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires. This show-stopping head turner also features a reptilian-like “spiked spine,” intimidating “teeth” up front, Green diamond-pleated interior with wrapped steering wheel, unique wind screen and custom tail lights. This car was formerly on display in a museum, and has been in the MY Garage Museum collection since 2002.

Custom Death Race 2000 Corvette | T236 | Indy 2015

$20,000 USD doesn’t seem like that much money for this extremely rare specialty movie car, especially if it works. Not that I’d be an interested buyer, but can you imagine pulling up to the grocery store in Frankenstein’s ride?

Problems with Cheap Smart TVs Powered By Roku?

Sluggish Roku menu navigation. It’s true. We bought a 65″ super cheap TV and sometimes navigating through the Roku menu is like walking through quicksand.

There is a reason for this — and it’s not entirely Roku’s fault — or is it?

Scanning reviews for inexpensive smart TVs from Roku-powered brands including not just TCL, but also Hisense and Westinghouse, a theme emerges. Users seem to complain about a preponderance of product defects, like cracked screens, as well as an overall feel of cheap build quality. That’s what you get with cheaper consumer electronics. But a more common theme is an overall sluggishness of the Roku OS on these sets. 

Roku’s Looming Problem? A Lot of Those Cheap Smart TVs Aren’t Any Good | Next TV

So, by targeting low-end, cheapest of the cheapest Smart TVs, Roku could be underpowered, which is likely causing some of the slow responsiveness.

TCL might be the ticket if you want a cheap, non-Roku-powered TV, see: Chinese Backdoor Scare in non-Roku powered TCL Smart TVs. Or maybe the answer for a faster streaming smart TV is to go with Sony, Samsung, etc.

Kate Winslet Knows Gay Male Actors Afraid To Come Out Because Of Their Careers

One of the more refreshingly honest portrayals of a gay love affair in 2020 happened in Harley Quinn

Here we are in 2021 and discrimination based on sexual orientation is still happening in Hollywood? According to Kate Winslet, at least mostly for men, it is.

“It’s bad news,” she added, “Hollywood has to drop that dated crap of, ‘Can he play straight because, apparently, he’s gay?’ ” “That should be almost illegal,” she said. “You would not believe how widespread it is. And it can’t just be distilled to the question about gay actors playing gay parts. Because actors, in some cases, are choosing not to come out for personal reasons. And it’s nobody’s business. Perhaps privacy. Perhaps conditioning and shame.”

Kate Winslet Says She Knows ‘at Least 4’ Actors ‘Hiding Their Sexuality’ Due to ‘Homophobia’ in Hollywood

Kate is partially wrong, discrimination in the workplace is illegal. An actor should be chosen based on his/her suitability for the part, never on his/her sexual orientation. I do understand if it’s for a gay part, that the actor should be able to convincingly be comfortable with same sex contact and affection. If s/he is not, then that’s a legitimate reason to give the part to another actor. I don’t buy for a second, however, that only gay men and women can play gay parts and they can’t play straight roles. Look at actors like Raymond Burr? He brilliantly played a straight part as Perry Mason. George Takei (Sulu on Star Trek) came out, but not until much later in his career. Heck, the rebooted Star Trek even showed his character as gay.

I can see this being an issue in the past, but in 2021 we should have moved past this type of discriminatory casting, yes/no?

It’s not only gay actors either. Look what’s happened on the Simpsons with voice actors (see: Kevin Michael Richardson to voice Dr. Hibbert instead of Harry Shearer on The Simpsons and Hank Azaria No Longer Voice of Apu on The Simpsons possibly being replaced by Indian Actor = Insanity)

Say that again: voice actors.

Hollywood is a strange, strange place.

This might be one small area where men are discriminated against more than women. Gay men in Hollywood. Male actors seem to get work into their senior ages more than aging female actresses. At least I’ve read that complaint over the years.

Will Netflix, Amazon or Apple Pay $400 million plus for two Knives Out Sequels?

Knives Out ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This past week I missed this rumor from Deadline that Netflix, Amazon and Apple are in a bidding war over two Knives Out sequels, with Netflix looking to edge the competition out — to the tune of $400+ million.

Netflix is closing in on a deal to make two sequels to the 2019 hit whodunit Knives Out, which Rian Johnson will direct with Daniel Craig reprising his role as super sleuth Benoit Blanc. Johnson, who wrote the original, has written the sequels and is producing with partner Ram Bergman. Sources said the deal will be worth north of $400 million, making it one of the biggest streamer movie deals in history.

Netflix Two Knives Out Sequels $400 million plus deal; Daniel Craig Rian Johnson – Deadline

Wow. $400 million?!?! for two sequels? We’re going to the school of James Cameron budget bloated sequel mania here — for streaming channels?.

Readers already know what we think of (not all) $100 million+ budget movies (see: $100+ Million Movie Budgets Are Stupid) — and that’s for theatrical release, but $200 million for streaming reaches a new level of absurdity. Especially sequels. It’s not like we’re talking about the sequel to Star Wars, Knives Out was a fun, entertaining movie, but this deal if it goes through is more than the first movie grossed. Seriously?

Good for Rian Johnson, I suppose. Bad potentially for Netflix subscribers that almost certainly will see another increase in the monthly subscription price (see: Will Netflix Price Itself Out Of The Streaming Market?). The more they spend on content, the more we’ll pay to view it. I like Netflix, but at some point they will price themselves out of our household. Is that when they push past $20/month? $25? $30? We’re getting there….

Do you like this deal? Or do you think this is kind of crazy? It’s not a 100% done deal and for that reason maybe this is floating out there for public sentiment. No, I say. I don’t want to see Knives Out 2 and 3 so bad that Netflix overspends for it. Do you?

Wonder Woman 1984 Subjected To More Criticism Because of Multiple Moves? No, It Just Wasn’t As Good As The First Film

Wonder Woman 1984 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The opinion piece quoted below makes some good points about movies that are moved around being subjected to more scrutiny, but I think Wonder Woman 1984 is a bad example to use. The film was underwhelming compared to the first, as are the vast majority of sequels. Did it help that it was delayed multiple times? No, but by the time we got to see it, over a year later than originally planned and through 9 months of a crippling pandemic, people were expecting a better movie than screened. That’s on Patty Jenkins and her creative team.

But check out the piece.

Nielsen continued, “I think that what happens psychologically is that a lot of movies like that then get into this insecure territory where they’re up for a judgment that would not normally have happened. The fact that it was moved so many times, put it under scrutiny that it did not deserve. It also, as a sophomore film, will always be compared to the one before.” “Wonder Woman 1984” was originally going to open on December 13, 2019, before Warner Bros. settled on November 1, 2019. The movie’s first big release push came when the film bumped to June 5, 2020

Connie Nielsen Defends Wonder Woman 1984: Release Day Caused Backlash | IndieWire

Had Wonder Woman 1984 released originally, instead of the studio getting greedy and trying to milk more $$$ out of it in summer 2020 it would have made more money. I don’t think anybody would argue differently there, but if you want to do so, the comments area is below.

Hindsight is 20/20 but we all know what happened in March 2020 and it spelled doom for that release date. There weren’t any theaters open to show the movie, so they had to push it back again — and again. Ultimately Christmas 2020 wasn’t much of a present when the movie wasn’t that good.

Now, to go back to the beginning of this post, even if Wonder Woman 1984 had released in 2019 has planned, I don’t think the reviews would have been any less critical. We’ll never know, but the article speculates this contributed to the overall criticism of the film itself. I can’t disagree any more. It simply doesn’t matter how or when a movie is released what the review community will think of the movie. I might prefer a movie be screened in a theater vs. home, but that doesn’t have any impact on the review itself. If I like the story, the acting, the experience enough, it’s getting a recommendation. I could care less when it is reviewed.

Look at Avatar 2 for perhaps a better as yet unproven example. We don’t know anything about if the film will be any good and it’s been delayed more than Wonder Woman 1984 ever could have been. Whenever we finally see Avatar 2 in theaters — presumably December 2022 as of this current writing, but who knows if that date will hold — will the many delays make critics more critical? I think some will focus on the delays in their commentary but I don’t think it will increase their criticism of the movie itself. Maybe I’m wrong.

Back to Wonder Woman 1984.

What do you think? Did Wonder Woman 1984 received more negative reviews simply because of the delayed screening date? This seems like a bogus argument to me. Did it make less money? Absolutely I think it did. Sooner is better than later I think with most movie releases, especially those that have already been marketed. If you don’t market and promote the film releasing it sooner will hurt the sales. The movie, once release, stands on its own with critics. I don’t see how there is a correlation otherwise. What do you think?

HBO Max CEO Thinks When Dust Clears That Five or Less “Major” Streaming Channels Will Remain

This means he doesn’t think Roku will ever be a major streamer, because they are ad-supported. It’s a bit ironic, considering HBO Max is going to be releasing an ad-supported version of their service, similar to what Hulu, Paramount+ and Peacock all currently offer.

What defines a “major” streaming service? The CEO of HBO Max, Jason Kilar says “hundreds of millions of paying subscribers.”

Speaking at Morgan Stanley’s Technology, Media and Telecom virtual conference Thursday morning, Kilar said that there’s only a handful of major streaming services “that I think can ultimately get to scale, defined by hundreds of millions of paying subscribers around the world.” How many is a handful? “Less than six,” the former Hulu CEO said. 

HBO Max Chief Kilar: ‘Less Than 6’ Major Streaming Services Will Get to Scale and Survive | Next TV

Amazon Prime Video isn’t 100% paid subscribers, because they include their streaming service as a perk for joining their Amazon Prime service. Yes, they also sell subscription separately, but the vast majority of their 150+ million subscribers are not paying to only subscribe to Prime video, they’re getting it as an included benefit. Their service would have dramatically fewer paid subscribers if it was only the streaming service. We’ll probably never know these numbers but if we could guess, we’d say it was less than 10 million subscribers, maybe way less.

This leaves the elephant in the room, the king of the hill, Netflix as the only “major” streaming service currently with hundreds of millions of paid subscribers. That’s all. One streaming channel. Disney+ is paid subscribers only, but it’s nowhere near 200+ million paid subscribers.

What Kilar is trying to do here is position HBO Max as one of the three or four primary paid subscription streaming services so when households start budgeting and cutting, they keep his service. Although HBO Max have been targeted as being too expensive — after all, they are the second most expensive streaming service currently — the reality is their content makes them one of the major streaming providers.

Then there’s Disney, the second elephant in the room. They don’t have as many paid subscribers yet, but they are climbing — fast. Don’t count them out by any means, not with such lucrative IP as Star Wars and Marvel, not to mention their own animated kingdom of family films. Disney, if they don’t screw it all up by failing to produce more movies and TV shows based on their IPs that fans are clamoring for, has the potential to one day rival Netflix. They are crippled at the moment by a variety of factors, but counting them out is ill-advised.

We don’t need Kilar to predict the streaming future. There are currently three major streaming services: Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ — and then everybody else. I could argue that Disney+ isn’t as good as HBO Max (especially with movies), because they aren’t putting out anywhere close to as much new original content, but that doesn’t matter. Disney is working on changing that. Heck, they have like a dozen Star Wars projects in the hopper alone, not to mention the Marvel stuff. If even a quarter of these projects are as successful as The Mandalorian, they can ride this to hundreds of millions of subscribers.

None of the services, even Amazon, compete with Netflix on quantity of new content released. Netflix has been working that corner market for several years and their pipeline is bursting with new content. Everybody else is playing catch-up. Once other streaming channels catch up, though, who’s on top could change. Netflix might be all about quantity but they have some quality control problems. So will everybody else. Not everything created is a smash hit.

Bottom line: Kilar isn’t wrong with what he said. He just focused on “paid” subscribers which is more than misleading considering the many ad-supported “FREE” streaming channel options. Many people will suffer through ads to watch their favorite movies and TV shows, just as has been the case with traditional TV that is fading for streaming..

What Kilar should have pondered is how many will switch to HBO Max ad-supported version to save $5-10/month? That answer depends on how invasive the ads will be.

Some Independent Data Suggests Raya And Last Dragon Premium Sales May Have Underwhelmed for Disney+

We’ve kicked around Disney+ $30 Premium fee (see: Mulan is available on Disney+ now, Have You Seen It, Yet?) for watching some of their movies available in theaters and whether or not it worked for us. So far, we haven’t bitten on the deal, but how many others have reached for their plastic?

New data found Raya and the Last Dragon had 20% less purchases on Disney+ during its early March opening weekend that Mulan had last fall, per Antenna. The analytics startup additionally found there to be a 30% decline in signups for the streaming service between March 5 and 7 in comparison to the first four weekends Mulan was available on Premier Access (via Business Insider).

Did Raya And Last Dragon Make Money On Disney+? Here’s What The Data Suggests – CINEMABLEND

The most obvious sign that the deal is working better than some might think — perhaps much better than this independent data suggests — is that Disney+ has committed to further experimentation (or implementation, depending on your perspective) with Black Widow and Cruella both receiving the same day in theaters and premium.

We still haven’t seen Raya and the Last Dragon yet. Almost zero percent chance we’ll pay $30 and watch on Disney+, but we’ve talked with the grandchildren about seeing in the theater. Kara has literally no interest in seeing this film. I might have to go see it alone while it’s still screening. There is only one new movie in theaters this week (Nobody), so catching up with Raya might be just the ticket.

Since we didn’t see it right away on opening week suggests it wasn’t a film either of us were hugely inspired to see, but that isn’t a reliable barometer to whether or not we’ll enjoy the movie. There are several examples of movies we had similar anticipation for that we were fully entertained watching.

Have you seen Raya and the Last Dragon yet? Let us know if/when you’re planning to do so or not in the comments below.

DC Comics for Sale? The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman Might Be Interested, Among Others

Harley Quinn comforts Batgirl on the Harley Quinn Animated Series — Season 3 is under development

It’s no secret, and not too much of a stretch to believe that AT&T isn’t that interested in being in the comic business any more. At least to the extent of publishing comics. They want to hang onto the more valuable IP for movie, TV and videogames based on DC characters, but the comics? Not so much.

So who might be interested in buying DC comics? Comic book business veteran, Ethan Van Sciver claims to have sources that suggest potential DC Comics interested buyers.

Ethan Van Sciver, who recently received credit for thanks in Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie, offered that sources have filled him in that two individuals in the comic book business are interested in buying DC Comics, which includes The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and Diamond Distributors founder Steve Geppi (the writer of the Bleeding Cool article tweeted it’s not Todd McFarlane).

Robert Kirkman Rumored To Buy DC Comics | Cosmic Book News

This is all part of the rumor mill at this point, but definitely would like to see somebody buy DC Comics and keep making comic books.

Would you like to see Batman vs. The Walking Dead? Harley Quinn crushing undead skulls with her mallet?