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Pioneering psychedelic rocker Roky Erickson dies at 71

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Entertainment | 0 comments

Roky Erickson, the blue-eyed, dark-haired Texan who headed the Austin-based 13th Floor Elevators, a pioneering psychedelic rock band in the 1960s that scored with “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” has died at 71.
Source: ABC News : Top Stories

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Original Content podcast: ‘Tuca & Bertie’ explores friendship and sex with anthropomorphic birds

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Entertainment, Media, Netflix, original content podcast, Podcasts | 0 comments

There’s some obvious overlap between “Tuca & Bertie” and “BoJack Horseman” — they’re both talking animal cartoons on Netflix; they have a similar look, courtesy of Lisa Hanawalt (designer on “BoJack Horseman” and creator of “Tuca & Bertie”); and “BoJack” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg co-wrote the first episode of the new show.

Plus, their respective first seasons follow a similar arc, kicking off with rapid-fire humor, then increasingly shading the jokes with serious character exploration as you get further into the story.

But as guest host Brian Heater helps us explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, “Tuca & Bertie” is a distinct show, with a distinct sense of humor — it’s zanier and raunchier, with a refreshing frankness about sex, not to mention a talented, diverse cast of voice actors led by Tiffany Haddish (Tuca) and Ali Wong (Bertie).

And where “BoJack” went deep into an exploration of its protagonist’s depression, “Tuca & Bertie” is more interested in the complexities of female friendship, all while remaining a funny show about birds that talk, go on dates and have jobs at companies like “Conde Nest.”

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro and a Very Serious Discussion about laugh tracks
8:47 Spoiler-free review of Tuca & Bertie
24:43 Spoiler discussion


Source: The Tech Crunch

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New ‘Black Mirror’ trailer features Miley Cyrus, Anthony Mackie… and more dystopia

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in actors, Bandersnatch, black mirror, choose your own adventure, ChooseCo, Entertainment, Miley Cyrus, Musicians, Netflix, TC | 0 comments

“Black Mirror” is coming back for its fifth season to once again show us why technology’s progress means we can no longer have nice things.

The new season will tell three stories written by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.

Featured performers include Anthony Mackie, Miley Cyrus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Topher Grace, Damson Idris, Andrew Scott, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport and Ludi Lin.

The last “Black Mirror” feature to appear on Netflix was the interactive epic “Bandersnatch,” which let viewers determine the fate of characters throughout the course of the story.

It was an experiment that could cost Netflix, thanks to a lawsuit from Chooseco, the company behind the “Choose your own adventure” series of books that inspired Black Mirror’s experiment in storytelling.

The fifth season likely marks a return to straight episodic narratives, with Cyrus featured in what “Variety” called a “meta storyline” about a celebrity who undergoes a transformation to attract more fans.

The new episodes will drop on Netflix June 5.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Original Content podcast: We’re not impressed by Netflix’s ‘Extremely Wicked’ Ted Bundy movie

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Entertainment, game of thrones, Media, Netflix, original content podcast, Podcasts | 0 comments

Despite its grandiose title, Netflix’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” turns out to be surprisingly forgettable.

In this week’s episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Brian Heater to review the film, which features Zac Efron as serial killer Ted Bundy and Lily Collins as his initially unsuspecting girlfriend Liz Kendall.

The film is ostensibly about their relationship, but director Joe Berlinger and screenwriter Michael Werwie can’t quite seem to commit — they end up dramatizing the broader story of Bundy’s capture and trials, while only intermittently returning to Kendall in the film’s second half.

Bundy’s actual murders also get short shrift. While one might argue that we already know he’s a killer and don’t necessarily need to see grisly recreations of his work, by being so coy about Bundy’s murderous side, the film ends up feeling strangely unbalanced and empty.

We also continue our discussion of the final season of “Game of Thrones,” with a review of the often-frustrating episode “The Last of the Starks.” We’re particularly concerned about what’s being set up as the show’s endgame, and where it’s taking Daenerys.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
1:29 “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” review (mild spoilers for the movie and for real-life events)
42:35 “Game of Thrones”/”Last of the Starks” discussion (spoilers ahoy!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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The Oscars won’t change their rules to exclude streaming

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 in academy awards, Entertainment, Media, Netflix | 0 comments

It looks like movies produced by Netflix and other streaming services will be able to compete for next year’s Academy Awards without any changes to eligibility.

After the Netflix Original film “Roma” was nominated for Best Picture at this year’s ceremony and ultimately took home the awards for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography, the Academy’s Board of Directors was mulling possible rule changes.

The crux of the debate seems to be Netflix’s theatrical strategy. The company insisted for years that it was willing to release its movies in theaters, but it would not hold those titles back from the streaming service, which meant that most large chains were unwilling to screen them. Netflix finally eased up on this practice last year, with “Roma” (and a handful of other films) opening in theaters before they launched on Netflix, but with a much shorter theatrical window than is traditional.

Director Steven Spielberg was reportedly an advocate for changing the rules in a way that would have made it harder for Netflix movies to compete — perhaps by requiring that films play exclusively in theaters for four weeks.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice weighed in, sending a letter to the Academy stating that if it makes eligibility changes that “eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”

Now the Academy has put out a press release summarizing rules changes voted on by its Board of Governors (like renaming the Foreign Language Film award to International Feature Film).

The release notes that the board voted not to change Rule Two, Eligibility, which describes the theatrical run needed to be eligible for an Oscar. It says that “a film must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles County commercial theater, with at least three screenings per day for paid admission” in order to be eligible — but the film can also be released on “nontheatrical media” at the same time.

“We support the theatrical experience as integral to the art of motion pictures, and this weighed heavily in our discussions,” said Academy President John Bailey in a statement. “Our rules currently require theatrical exhibition, and also allow for a broad selection of films to be submitted for Oscars consideration. We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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‘Child’s Play’ trailer gets a smart home makeover, giving Chucky control over connected devices

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Childs Play, Entertainment, films, TC | 0 comments

Oh golly does the new trailer for “Child’s Play” look good.

Not only does it have appearances by Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill (as the voice of Chucky) and Bryan Tyree Henry (who’s awesome in Atlanta), but it’s giving Chucky a smart home makeover.

The demonically possessed doll now has the power to control networked devices like thermostats, drones, doors and pretty much any gadget in a connected home (from the looks of the trailer).

However horrifying the thought may be of a demon-possessed doll — imagine the damage it could do by taking over your trusty Alexa. Now that’s truly terrifying.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Original Content podcast: Making sense of the surreal terrors in Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’

Posted by on Apr 13, 2019 in Entertainment, Jordan Peele, Media, original content podcast, Podcasts, US | 0 comments

Jordan Peele fans who go to his latest film “Us” hoping to find another “Get Out” may be disappointed: Where Peele’s directorial debut lent itself to straightforward political allegory, the follow-up feels murkier and stranger.

“Us” is a nightmarish journey into a world invaded by sinister doppelgangers. The film does, eventually, offer a rationale for what’s happening, but the surreal imagery (and the unsettling work by the cast, led by Lupita Nyong’o) will stick with you in a way that the explanations do not.

On this week’s episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Megan Rose Dickey to review the film. Now that it’s been a few weeks since “Us” hit theaters, it feels like the right time to argue about what actually happened, dig into the film’s symbolism and see which fan theories resonate.

We also talk about our expectations after watching the first trailer for the next Star Wars film, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which is meant to wrap up the whole nine-episode story.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Original Content podcast: ‘Triple Frontier’ sends famous faces on a grim hike over the Andes

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Entertainment, Media, Netflix, original content podcast, Podcasts | 0 comments

Even by the standards of the often, ah, “wide-ranging” conversations on the Original Content podcast, this latest episode covers a lot of ground.

The initial focus is “Triple Frontier,” a film directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Pedro Pascal, Charlie Hunnam and Garrett Hedlund as friends who served in the special forces together, and who reunite to rob an infamous drug lord.

The film starts off as a relatively straightforward thriller, but in its second half, it becomes increasingly focused on the morality of these former soldiers, and even more on the mechanics of the robbery — not how you’d steal $250 million in cash, but how you’d actually get that money home.

As you probably guessed, things do not go according to plan, and we’re soon treated to multiple shots of handsome men grimly dragging duffel bags of money over the mountains. It’s an intriguing idea, even if it doesn’t quite deliver the emotional payoff that we’d hoped for.

Because we’re joined by the podcast’s original co-host Darrell Etherington, we also take some time to recap the latest season of “The Bachelor,” and to debate Netflix’s decision to test out different episode orders for the anthologies series “Love, Death & Robots,” which then leads to a discussion of a recent piece by the critic Sean T. Collins arguing that Netflix is taking a depressingly derivative and uninspired approach to TV.

We close the episode with a spoiler-filled discussion of “The Umbrella Academy” — which we reviewed a few weeks ago, but seemed worth revisiting, now that we’ve all finished the first season.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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What to expect from Apple’s ‘Show Time’ event

Posted by on Mar 22, 2019 in Apple, Apple Media Event 2019, Apple TV, Apps, Entertainment, Media | 0 comments

The biggest surprise about next week’s Apple event may be the fact that the company has anything left to announce. This week, several core pieces of Apple hardware received upgrades, including the iPad Air and mini, iMac and AirPods. Given the company’s rush to get all of that out the door, we don’t expect to see much in the way of new devices at Monday’s event.

Apple sent invites announcing that March 25 will be “Show Time.” The wording was a subtle nod to the “It’s Showtime” invites the company sent for its 2006 Special Event, which saw the announcement of, among other things iTV — an early peek at the product that would launch as Apple TV the following year.

This time out, however, the company is all about the services. Taking center stage will be its long-awaited original content play. Apple couldn’t keep the news fully under wraps as it pumped around $1 billion into content, so we’ve been hearing dribs and drabs over the past year or so (more on that below), including hiring everyone from Oprah to Spielberg.

The service is set to compete with the biggest names in streaming, including Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, along with long-rumored newcomers like Disney. Among the more compelling reports we’ve seen surface so far involve the company helping to sell you other streaming services.

In a sense, it wouldn’t be entirely unlike the current Apple TV model. Reports have the company building a new content store focused on offering bundles with cable services like HBO, Showtime and Starz. Put more simply, Apple may be looking to disrupt cable TV by essentially becoming a cable TV provider. Its tremendous hardware outreach will play a major role in helping it gain a toehold — like Apple Music before it.

As for the original content, it’s not clear whether Apple plans to monetize these shows at all. Instead, reports suggest that it could make them available for free to viewers with an Apple device.

Here are all of the projects that have been revealed so far. Keep in mind that they’re in various stages of development, and, as such, may change dramatically or never see the light of day.

  • “Amazing Stories” — a reboot of the science fiction anthology series executive produced (in both its old and new versions) by Steven Spielberg.
  • “Are You Sleeping?” — a crime show about true crime podcasts, executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Octavia Spencer.
  • “Calls” — an adaptation of a French short-form series emphasizing audio storytelling.
  • “Central Park” — an animated musical comedy from Loren Bouchard (creator of “Bob’s Burger”), as well as Josh Gad and Nora Smith.
  • “Defending Jacob” — a thriller adapted from William Landay’s novel, starring Chris Evans.
  • “Dickinson” — a coming-of-age series about the poet Emily Dickinson, starring Hailee Steinfeld.
  • “For All Mankind” — a space race-themed science fiction series from Ronald D. Moore, who created the acclaimed reboot of “Battlestar Galactica.”
  • “Foundation” — an adaptation of the classic science fiction series by Isaac Asimov, with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman as showrunners.
  • “Home” — a documentary series about extraordinary homes.
  • “Little America” — an immigrant-themed anthology series showrun by Lee Eisenberg (“The Office”) and Alan Yang (“Master of None”).
  • “Little Voice” — a romantic dramedy executive produced by J.J. Abrams and the creative team behind the “Waitress” musical, Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson.
  • “Losing Earth” — a series based on Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times magazine story and book about the history of climate activism.
  • “Magic Hour” — a mystery series inspired by the real-life story of Hilde Lysiak, executive produced and directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”).
  • “My Glory Was I Had Such Friends” — a series that reunites J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner (Garner will star, and both will executive produce), based on the Amy Silverstein memoir of the same name.
  • “Pachinko” — a series based on the Min Jin Lee novel, a multi-generational saga about a Korean family.
  • “See” — a science fiction drama written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Francis Lawrence (multiple “Hunger Games” sequels).
  • “Shantaram” — A series based on the novel by Gregory David Robert, about a man who escapes from an Australian prison and ends up in Bombay.
  • “Swagger” — a scripted series inspired by basketball star Kevin Durant’s life.
  • “The Morning Show” — a drama about the world of morning TV, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.
  • “Time Bandits” — a reboot of the cult classic Terry Gilliam film, co-written and directed by Taika Waititi.
  • Untitled Brie Larson series — a show featuring the “Captain Marvel” star, based on the real-life experiences of undercover CIA operative Amaryllis Fox.
  • Untitled Colleen McGuinness series — a comedy series inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s short story collection “You Think It, I’ll Say It.”
  • Untitled Damien Chazelle series — not much is known about the content of the series, but the “La La Land” director is expected to write and direct every episode of the first season.
  • Untitled M. Night Shyamalan series — a thriller written by Tony Basgallop, with Shyamalan directing the first episode and executive producing.
  • Untitled Oprah projects — Oprah Winfrey has signed a multi-year partnership to produce original content for Apple, though what kinds of content remains to be seen.
  • Untitled Snoopy series — a short-form series starring Snoopy and focused on STEM, which is part of a larger “Peanuts” deal between Apple and Canadian broadcaster DHX Media.
  • Untitled Richard Gere series — a drama based on the Israeli show “Nevelot.”
  • Untitled Rob McElhenny/Charlie Day series — a comedy from the team behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” with McElhenny playing an employee at a video game studio.
  • Untitled Simon Kinberg/David Weil series — a science fiction series co-written by Kinberg, a longtime writer and producer of “X-Men” movies.

That will no doubt monopolize the majority of the event, but Apple could well have some surprises up its sleeve. The leading contender for a second announcement is the company’s long-rumored subscription news service. As with its movie/TV plans, Apple’s reportedly been talking to a number of different publishers to launch what some are referring to as a “Netflix for News,” which would expand on its acquisition of digital magazine app Texture.

Reports have noted, however, that many outlets are less than thrilled about revenue share that would come with the service’s paid tier. Still, some big publishers, including The Wall Street Journal, are said to already be on-board for launch.

A third major rumor finds the company launching a consumer credit card through a partnership with Goldman Sachs. The investment giant’s CEO is reportedly planning to attend the event in order to launch a co-branded card.

Everything kicks off at 10am Pacific on Monday, March 25. TechCrunch will be on-hand to bring you the news as it breaks.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Rakuten TV expands to 42 European countries, gets direct button on Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense remotes

Posted by on Mar 14, 2019 in Entertainment, Europe, Media, rakuten, video streaming | 0 comments

Rakuten TV, the Japanese e-commerce giant’s effort to take on Netflix and Amazon in the world of video streaming, has been a minor player when it comes to market share for online entertainment, with a mere 7 million users of its service. But today, it’s unveiling two key pieces of news that it hopes will help reverse that. The company is adding 30 new countries in Europe where the service will operate, bringing the total across the region and Japan to 42. And it’s inked a deal with big names in connected TV entertainment systems — specifically Samsung, LG, Philips and Hisense — to embed a dedicated “Rakuten TV” button on their remotes.

The two moves together underscore how Rakuten may not have been among those riding the wave as video streaming has exploded in popularity — compare its 7 million users with the 139 million users Netflix reported in its most recent earnings — but it does not seem ready to throw in the towel on it, either.

“We are here to continue running the marathon,” Jacinto Roca, the CEO of Rakuten TV, said in an interview this week. “This is another step for us to become a global player in this industry.”

It’s about time that Netflix and Amazon had some competition in the over-the-top video market — that is, video entertainment delivered to consumers over their existing broadband connections to compete with costly cable or satellite packages — but if they are perhaps some of the most obvious competition, they’re not the only ones. Apple, Google, a number of content owners themselves, and device makers all believe they have a shot at muscling in and becoming the go-to destination for consumers’ video entertainment needs.

Rakuten TV in some ways looks directly like the Japanese e-commerce company’s answer to Amazon’s video service: both have moved into the area as a natural extension of their e-commerce businesses, which sell consumer electronics and already have extensive operations around content — namely books and e-books, and both would have already build a lot of the infrastructure needed to run these services as a by-product of those e-commerce operations. And, alongside other Rakuten-owned assets like Viber and Ebates, this is one more move by the company to diversify not just its revenues and services, but the ecosystem in which customers are interacting with its brand.

But Rakuten TV has taken a different approach in at least three important ways. The first of these is in how it prices the service. There are no monthly subscriptions, and people watch and pay for movies on an a la carte basis. Roca said that this is unlikely to change anytime in the future. 

“We think that the simplicity of our offer is one of the key value propositions for us so we have no plans to introduce monthly bundles,” he said. He added that in the case of Rakuten TV the company has found that customers watch more than one movie per month, and when you look at the average prices of its films — promotions might come in (in the UK) at 99 pence for one film, but a top release like the Crimes of Grindlewald costs £13.99 to view — “that is definitely a healthy ARPU for us,” he said. “The focus today is making sure that we have people enjoying at least one movie per month on our platform.”

He notes that the economics are ironically trickier in bundles for popular providers where multiple views are happening under one price, which can impact the margins on the overall service. (Something that has been argued with music streaming, too.)

The second area where Rakuten TV is trying to stand apart from others in the streaming video space is its decision not to create original content, or at least not on any scale. The company last year put out a film that it produced, Hurricane, which Roca described to me as an “experiment.”

“We will do three or four more films this year, to start learning about production, but we have no big strategy behind this right now,” he said, noting that content providers have some regulatory requirements in Europe to also contribute investment to grow the content production industry locally in the face of over-domination from the US. “It’s more an experiment, with but no strategic initiative.”

Content efforts can run into the hundreds of millions or even billions in terms of investment, as they collectively had for Rakuten TV’s competitors, and while there is clearly some glory and cred that comes with that, for a smaller player it may not be a tenable option given the challenges of distribution. It also puts Rakuten into a better bargaining position with other content rightsholders, who will not eye it as a rival for eyeballs who might also use their own might as a bargaining chip when agreeing on licensing.

That brings us to the third area where Rakuten is trying to be a bit different, and one excuse of Roca’s for why the company has taken so long to expand to more countries: localization. He says that Rakuten TV will stand out from the field by offering a wider and better selection of content for each local market, using data to see not just what locals like to watch on TV, but what were popular cinematic releases that Rakuten should definitely try to get for those markets. This takes time, he said.

I have to admit there is something to this: if you have ever travelled to various far-flung places and attempted to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you might notice that not only do you get a much more limited choice of titles, but they are nearly the same from country to country and put a heavy emphasis on the services’ original content — likely one other reason why they have created it in the first place, to populate their services without having to do lots of tricky licensing deals.

In any case, Rakuten is putting investment in another, more basic area first before it can start to double down more on original content. The company is not disclosing how much it had to pay the smart TV makers to create a button on their remotes, but said that it made the investment based on strong results on existing handsets from Roku and Hisense.

“We’ve had buttons on those for a couple of years, and we can see that we are bringing in new users from those buttons,” Roca said. “So after two years with those, we decided it was the right moment to invest and go into brands that have big market shares in Europe.” He says this will give Rakuten TV potentially access to buttons on TVs from providers that collectively have a 35 percent market share in the region. Of course, getting people handsets with those Rakuten buttons is predicated on consumers actually buying new TVs, so this is a bet that very much has yet to pay off.

The investment in smart TV placement is notable also because at the same time, Rakuten is not expanding its presence in any notable way on mobile. That also is down to data, Roca said: today, some 60 percent of its content is consumed on smart TVs. The company also touts that it has the largest catalog of 4K HDR movies in Europe and is about to start trialling 8K.

Looking forward, Roca said that Rakuten TV’s plan is to enter completely different markets now that it has largely covered Europe. That will include, most likely, Latin America, which has a cultural and linguistic synergy with Spain, the home market of Rakuten TV (the Japanese giant spearheaded its TV strategy around its 2012 acquisition of Wuaki.tv, founded by Roca, which it eventually rebranded). And it is also looking at which markets it might target in Asia. Another Rakuten acquisition, of Viki, which provides crowdsourced subtitles for online videos, could play a key part of its strategy in Asia, where Viki has a large usage base.

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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