The Netflix split. Why, Netflix? Why?

Netflix made a lot of people angry this summer when the company announced a price hike for its DVD-by-mail and video streaming services. The price change split the DVD-by-mail and streaming services into two separate options, when previously they were bundled.

Price hikes are never popular, but the complaining and media coverage of said complaining may have gone too far.

The split between the DVD-by-mail and streaming services became more pronounced today, when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced in a letter to subscribers (who include this blogger) that Netflix will continue to stream video, but its DVD-by-mail option will be carried out under the guise of a new company called Qwikster.

The switch, to happen in a matter of weeks, will mean that customers who have streaming and mail services will have to manage two separate accounts. Qwikster customers will also be able to rent video games by mail if they pay an additional premium, but Hastings tells customers there will be no further price changes.

Got that? No? Maybe? Is Netflix crazy like a fox?

My initial reaction is that Netflix’s impending split makes no sense at all, but maybe the company’s executives know more than I do. Nonetheless, Qwikster strikes me as a terrible name. The name “Netflix” tells me that I can watch movies, or, “flicks” on the Internet. The word “Qwikster” tells me something is quick, but I have no idea what.

Netflix announced lowered subscriber estimates but the company also reported that executives stuck  by their new pricing plan. But splitting the service makes it easier for customers to leave at least half of their plan, and the competition seems to be tougher in the streaming services that Netflix pioneered.

If I want to watch a movie that Netflix doesn’t stream, it’s easy under the company’s current structure to request the DVD and have it in a couple of days. If another company has a better streaming option, which Hulu Plus may have with its addition of the Criterion Collection, I may end up choosing to leave Netflix and maybe keep Qwikster. Or maybe I just support my local video store, depending on which is a better value for my dollar.

Reactions from around the web after the jump:
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Lucas to fans: “Just say no.”

America – and the rest of the world – owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to George Lucas. The man who created the Star Wars movies is now doing his utmost to cure fans of their excessive devotion to the series.

Since releasing Star Wars in 1977, Lucas has earned countless billions (I could probably look up the number, but don’t feel like it right now) from the series. Movie tickets. Toys. T-shirts. Toys. Home video. Toys that are slightly different than the last series of toys. Star Wars has been cocaine for nerds, and George Lucas has been its Tony Montana.

But what if Tony Montana developed a conscience? What if he survived rival drug lord Alejandro Sosa’s assault – and that instead of being the basis for a video game I never had any inclination to play – his hypothetical survival became the basis for a new life? A new life devoted to freeing Miami’s cocaine addicts from their crippling chemical dependency.

Thus, the only explanation for Lucas’ decision to make the following change (confirmed in the New York Times) to Return of the Jedi is that series’ own creator has decided people like Star Wars movies too much and need to find something new to do with their lives.

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Item: Agent 007 to report for duty in 2012

Intelligence reports from the A.V. Club have it that MGM and Sony Pictures will have the next installment of the James Bond franchise in theaters by Nov. 9, 2012.

The good news here is another outing for Daniel Craig as James Bond, a role the actor played very well in “Casino Royale.” Its follow-up “Quantum of Solace,” was OK, but I share the opinion of many that it suffered a bit from the filmmakers apparent attempts to ape “The Bourne Identity” franchise’s shaky-cam aesthetic.

(For whatever it’s worth, my Top Five movies in the Bond franchise are “From Russia With Love,” “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “Casino Royale,” “Goldfinger” and “For Your Eyes Only.” “Eyes” was my first Bond flick, and “Tomorrow Never Dies” gets an honorable mention for featuring a newspaper magnate as its supervillain.)

The weird (?) news is that “American Beauty” and “Away We Go” director Sam Mendes is still attached to direct the next Bond movie, which will be the series’ 23rd installment. Mendes’ closest venture to somewhere near Bond territory was probably “Road to Perdition,” which starred Tom Hanks as an old-time gangster raising his son while on the run.

This is on the Internet, so I am obligated to make a snarky comment about Mendes – who has made his ideas on suburban ennui a major part of his oeuvre – directing a Bond film. Here it goes. Instead of a typical Bond story about spies and sexy women with funny names, Bond 23 will tell the story of a conflicted Bond, who while spending a break from duty in his lovely Notting Hill home, realizes that Moneypenny is the only woman who he has ever truly loved and wrestles with his inability to commit to her and live a quiet suburban life with a desk job for MI-6.


Mass Effect to be adapted into anime form

Mass Effect series developers BioWare and anime distributors FUNimation Entertainment announced a deal to produce a feature-length anime based on the Mass Effect series.

Tokyo-based T.O. Entertainment will co-produce the film, according to a press release. Mass Effect executive producer Casey Hudson is set to executive produce the anime with
 FUNimation  CEO Gen Fukunaga, Director of Original
Entertainment Chris Moujaes and T.O Entertainment’s CEO Takeichi Honda
and Yui Shibata.

Filmmakers have already started production and digital and video releases are scheduled for summer 2012.

Production of the Mass Effect anime movie has already begun. Digital and home video releases are scheduled for the summer of 2012.

I watched Skyline


Skyline is easily the worst movie that I’ve seen this year, and one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. If you’ve watched the trailers, that’s literally everything that you have to look forward to.

Skyline is about an alien invasion of earth as giant ships arrive to vacuum up humanity thanks to their ability to mesmerize us and have us gather at convenient “pick up” points. The premise certainly sounded interesting: why do these aliens want us? Where did they come from? Will the film show us some neat scenery?

Well, I’ll answer the first question because the answer is incredibly stupid: they’re here for our brains.

After leaving the theater, it certainly felt as if they took mine.
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It’s…the Shadow?


Remember the Alec Baldwin superhero flick, The Shadow? Wait, you don’t remember Alec Baldwin as a superhero, period?

It’s not too surprising considering the drubbing the film was given when it came out in ’94, but I liked it enough for its stab at the 1930’s radio show and pulp series it was based on. Even if you haven’t heard of The Shadow, you’ve probably seen his modus operandi of working at night as a costumed detective fighting crime in the big city influencing certain other heroes elsewhere…such as Batman. For the film, the costumes, set pieces, the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, and the end credits sung by Taylor Dane certainly made its big screen debut impressionable.

It’s too bad that its plot based on a psychic descendant of Genghis Khan and a superhero who could control men’s minds were forced to wither in the shadows cast by Tim Burton’s Batman duet, even with Tim Curry as a slobbering madman. It even had the beat ’em up tie-in by Ocean on the SNES pitting the player in a Streets of Rage like battle against street thugs and Mongol warriors.

But the rumor mill is spinning its wheels on whispers that Quentin Tarantino might be attached to a reboot of what was supposed to be the first film of an ongoing series. Fox has picked the rights up and there’s talk that David Slade is on board to direct. On one hand, I’d love to see what Tarantino can do with this kind of material.

On the other, if it ever does come out, I hope that the game doesn’t suck.

Inception has a Comic


I can’t wait for Inception to come out this Friday.

The basic idea behind the movie, invading people’s dreams in order to steal their secrets, isn’t a new one. We’ve seen analogues to the same thing with the Matrix, or even Dreamcape starring Jonathan Plummer, Max Von Sydow, and Dennis Quaid as the psychic dream hopper. However, this latest stab looks unbelievably crazy in Christopher Nolan’s hands.

All of which only makes me itching to see William Gibson’s cyberspace magnum opus, Neuromancer, given the same treatment. It might be coming to that, at least according to IMDB, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’ve heard that noise before when the PC game from Interplay came out in ’88.

So Inception will be scratching that itch for now and I’m excited to see how Nolan has turned our minds into the last frontier. A prequel comic has even come out to give potential fans a little of Inception’s flavor this Friday when it comes out in theaters.

It’s pretty good and the writers might be giving a nod to ol’ Gibson and cyberspace in general with the title: The Cobol Job. COBOL is also the name of an old business programming language that doesn’t see much use today, unless you happen to be on an ancient mainframe still being used in the bowels of a Fortune 500 company because it’s cheaper than upgrading.

You can check out the action here, sit back, and just click your way through.

I Watched a Movie: Iron Man 2


Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) life as industrialist-turned-wisecracking superhero hasn’t gotten any easier after his debut as Iron Man. He’s still the bad boy playboy industrialist and he’s even worse in the sequel for good reason.

Stark is dying. The miraculous invention that had saved his life in the first film is also killing him and the genius inventor of the Iron Man suit has no idea what to do to stop it. He’s tried everything and has told no one since he’s, after all, Tony Stark. If he can’t figure it out, then what’s the point of asking?

And that’s where the fun begins.
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Nazis from the Moon! Gasp!

It’s not a new WW2 game or a sequel to Cinemaware’s Rocket Ranger, but it’s an independent film called Iron Sky that has been developing over the past two years or so. Premise: In 1945, the Nazis fled to the Moon thanks to secret super science (and a base in Antarctica). In 2018, they’re planning to come back and conquer the world. It’s the kind of plot that Buck Rogers would have been proud of.

The film is being made by the same group that did Star Wreck, a Star Trek parody from Finland, and has also invited the ‘net to participate in its making. How this works is that the filmmakers will create a few tasks that they need help on and basically anyone is free to contribute their own ideas by posting at the amusingly named Wreckamovie site such as what they would like to see in an official poster. There are also quite a few other films there that are also embracing this kind of fan-participation approach so if Nazis in space isn’t your thing, there should be something else to help flex your imagination.

I’ve been keeping an eye on this production for awhile and they’ve already cast the parts with one or two names that I recognized such as the incredibly prolific go-to guy for evil, Udo Kier (Bloodrayne, Blade), and Gotz Otto (Tomorrow Never Dies, Der Untergang) as the head bad guy.

You can find out more about Iron Sky at their official site. As for when the movie is going to be done, they’re aiming at a release sometime in 2011, so they’ve still got a way to go. But at least there’s the trailer.