Archives For Movies

AMC’s Best Picture Showcase

Dave Zatz —  February 16, 2009


2008 was the rare year in which I missed every Oscar Best Picture nominee. Pretty depressing for a (former?) film buff. Fortunately, AMC’s hooked me up with a ticket to their all-day Best Picture Showcase being held Saturday (2/21). I may have neglected to mention to their rep that I’d planned to attend anyhow – $30 for five quality flicks (and unlimited popcorn) seems like a nice deal to me. The AMC event is being held at nearly 100 theaters around the country, and I’ll be at Tysons Corner 16 (with stadium seating) if you’d like to join me for the movie marathon:

  • Milk 10:30AM
  • The Reader 1:05PM
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 3:45PM
  • Slumdog Millionaire 7:15PM
  • Frost/Nixon 9:45PM

Although I’ve been negligent, Dale’s cranking out reviews of many Oscar nominated films and talent that may be of interest before heading to the theatre or filling your Netflix queue.

Every year Andy Baio does a very cool thing, he tracks how quickly Oscar-nominated films are leaked online to P2P networks. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, but primarily for demonstrating how unreliable the actual Academy members themselves are in keeping Hollywood’s goods off the Internet. The annual results are relatively similar: usually within a week, or sometimes a bit longer, after an Academy screener is released a version of the movie is available for download via BitTorrent (to say nothing of Usenet, Rapidshare, etc.). What would be interesting to see, however, is if the illegal downloading activity spiked after the nominations came out – is the file-sharing community as affected by the hype surround Oscar nominations as the box office often is. Alas, that would be very difficult to study with any great confidence since the data is not really available. In general, though, the most reliable and accessible analysis of Bittorrent behavior is provided by TorrentFreak in their weekly top 10 lists, which generally show a strong correlation between mainstream audience taste and downloaders’ preferences, with some notable exceptions, that is, pretty much anything Science Fiction.

A couple of categories get overlooked by Andy, however, including the documentary and foreign nominees, and also whether any of the nominated films are available in HD resolutions. The documentary and foreign films are easy to skip since they barely appear on the radar of most film-goers to begin with, and HD is not something that is too relevant to Andy’s study as all of the official screeners are standard definition DVD’s. As someone very interested in foreign and documentary films, however, I wanted to see what I could find out about their availability for download.  Read the rest of this entry »

For those of you still not satisfied with the current crop of movie recommendation services, you’ll soon have another option available to you. Jinni’s new interactive movie rating website is trying to do for movies, what Pandora has done for music. Although the site doesn’t stream any of the films that they recommend, but provides convenient links to places where you can find the films online (Netflix, Blockbuster, Hulu, etc.) Apparently, the company has been live for a few months now, but I just discovered them after catching a review of the service on Read Write Web. Last week, I signed up for the private Jinni beta and have been pretty impressed so far.

Jinni includes reviews, photos and even trailers for each film in their database, but their movie filtering software is the real bread and butter. Most of the content you’ll find on their movie description pages is pretty much available on any of the other movie sites, but their “movie genome” information is exclusive. Through a process of human and computer intervention, they’ve categorized every film in their library using information from the movie’s plot, mood, genre, time period, critic reviews, story type, and attitudes. Viewers are then able to filter their search results by using these definitions. Continue Reading…

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  December 25, 2008

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

2008 HDTV Year in Review
There’s been a whole lot of HDTV activity this year, and with only a few days left in 2008, I think it’s a good time to take a look back. All in all, it was a big year for HDTV. And 2009 promises more of the same.

Ultimate Guide – the Winter 2009 TV Season

Wanting to know when that show from the Fall season is returning? Or maybe you’re curious about what new shows are starting January – March? The Winter 2009 season will soon be upon us so, I have compiled the complete guide for you.

The A – Z Movie Meme
Last month Blog Cabins started a pretty cool meme where he lists his favorite movies A – Z. Since I’ve been slacking off on my posts for the last few months, I wanted to go back and share my own list with you.

Motorola Predictions, the New Set-Top to Handset Service, and More

In an ongoing series of executive interviews to wrap up the year, I spoke recently with Motorola’s John Burke on some of the most important milestones for the video industry in 2008 and his predictions for 2009. Here are some of the highlights in written form along with audio sound bytes and a 60-second bonus video.

Add Christmas Cheer to your HTPC with Holiday Themes
Want to add a little special Christmas spirit to your Home Theater PC (HTPC) this season?  If you use SageTV, MediaPortal and BeyondTV you are in luck as each of these HTPC programs have Christmas themes you can install and use on your own HTPC.

Cable’s Wireless Plan Needs Video
With control over wired and wireless networks, both cable and telco operators should start thinking about cross-platform content in an entirely new way.


A highlight of my San Francisco vacation was the stop at Skywalker Ranch earlier this week. Of course, they don’t let just anybody in, but my peeps got connections.  ;)

While a lot of the production work for Lucas Films happens at the Presidio, the ranch is home to a major sound studio for the company. There are also several projects ongoing at the site, including documentary work and research at the ranch’s impressive library. Pics below of some of the memorabilia displayed at Skywalker Ranch, as well as the library and the stunning landscape.


Thanks to husband David and to Jen for inviting us out. Check out the documentary series released with the Young Indiana Jones movie, and stay tuned for an upcoming American foreign policy documentary produced by Lucas Films.

Anyone else notice how rare it is to find decent movies are added to the Netflix Watch Now selection?  There are good ones there, but they’re far and few between. I most often find gems like Toxie’s Triple Terror: Deadly Daphne’s Revenge come through the Netflix Watch Now RSS feed. Or possibly another exciting title such as Monster of London City / Mystery of the Red Orchid: Double Feature. Yeah, I’ve never heard of those either thankfully. But there really are a few decent ones, albeit older titles, in the mix occasionally. Here’s some that are worth checking out:

  • The Interpreter – Silvia Broome’s (Nicole Kidman) job is to translate for her assigned delegate the complex issues faced by the United Nations. But the interpreter’s daily challenge turns epic when she accidentally overhears details of a plot to assassinate a high-ranking government official. Suddenly, her existence is overshadowed by danger, and she must unravel an intricate yarn of intrigue with the help of an FBI agent (Sean Penn) in order to save herself.
  • Beethoven – If you have a young one around who hasn’t seen this yet, give it a shot. Workaholic George Newton (Charles Grodin) reluctantly agrees to let his children keep a St. Bernard puppy who’s just escaped the clutches of two dimwitted dognappers (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci). Dubbed Beethoven, the playful pooch soon turns into a full-grown engine of destruction, leaving wreckage and hilarity in his wake. Disney veteran Dean Jones is cast against type as a vile veterinarian who kidnaps Beethoven for a lab experiment.
  • Miss Conception – Not the most intelligent sitcom-like movie, but entertaining to the teen/tween crowd regardless. Georgina (Heather Graham) is a high-powered London businesswoman who’s decided to add mother to her list of accomplishments. Unfortunately, her longtime boyfriend (Tom Ellis) isn’t ready to be a daddy. With her biological clock ticking, Georgina recruits her best friend, Clem (Mia Kirshner), to help her find the perfect father for her baby-to-be. Orlando Seale co-stars in this timely romantic comedy.

These are some of the better titles available to stream via Netflix Watch Now – really. There are some TV shows I’ve watched here – I caught up on Office and Dexter, but they really need to expand their Watch Now collection to make the Netflix-attached devices compelling. There’s a bit of content I view using my SageTV Netflix plugin, but not enough to make me want to purchase a dedicated device.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.

One year ago I wrote about MGM’s trial release of the movie A Dog’s Breakfast on iTunes and put in a prayer that Joss Whedon would follow the straight-to-download distribution model. Apparently someone heard me over in Whedonverse.

If you’re a fan (Buffy, Angel, Firefly…), you’ve likely already heard about Dr. Horrible‘s Sing-Along Blog, the first installment of which appears tomorrow. It’s not exactly straight-to-download. Instead, Whedon is premiering his new creation in three streaming parts. The three segments will appear in sequence on July 15th, 17th and 19th. And then on July 20th, they will all disappear. Soon after July 20th, Dr. Horrible will be available for download for a “nominal” fee, and eventually the video will come out on DVD. Read all about in Whedon’s master plan.

Now a plug for the video itself. Go watch it! Seriously. Even if you know nothing about Joss Whedon, this show’s got Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Doing comedic villainy things. And it’s a musical! Could you ask for anything more?

Hulu Days of Summer

Mari Silbey —  June 19, 2008

Whether or not you believe Hulu can “kick YouTube’s ass,” the folks behind the Web video venture are certainly doing more than a few things right. I got hooked on Hulu when it was still in beta, checking out a few 30 Rock episodes and some of the Scrubs shows I’d missed. But I admit my usage of the site has fallen off. (Largely because when I’m on my computer I get too distracted by all things work.) Now Hulu has a new campaign going that may just suck me back in.

“Hulu Days of Summer” launches a premiere program every weekday through mid-August. So far, Hulu’s put out Lost in Translation (great movie), a Three Stooges collection, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and today’s debut, a long line-up of NOVA shows. I know the gimmick sounds pretty standard, but Hulu’s adding a twist: a Hulu Days of Summer Widget along with an RSS feed. Brilliant move for the all the Web entertainment sites that track this kind of thing.

I also found myself receptive to Hulu’s news because in came in an email update that apparently I opted in for. This may be the first time Hulu’s sent something to me, or it may be the folks there just do it so rarely I’ve forgotten other missives. In any case, since I hadn’t heard from Hulu lately, I was interested to see what they had to say. Other recent updates: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are up on Hulu now, and Hulu has highlights of the NBA championship series. (Sorry Lakers fans…)