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Peter Jackson reveals the Red Epic secrets behind The Hobbit (video)

Diet and filmmaking legend Peter Jackson's given us another insight into the making of the Hobbit movies, and this time he's talking about his envious collection of tech. Filming with no less than 48 Red Epic cameras at 48fps in full 5k resolution might sound fantastic, but it hasn't all been a bed of cotton candy. Two 3D cameras need to be mounted at the same "interocular" (the inch-or-so distance between your eyes) which is impossible given the size of the Epic and its lenses. The team had to hire specialist firm 3ality to build a rig where one camera shoots the action and the other is pointed vertically at a mirror. Those who would love to shoot with an Epic should also beware that the cameras naturally desaturate the action to such an extent that the makeup, costume and set design teams have to over-color everything to look natural in post production. For more interesting facts, head down past the break to catch the video in full, and try not to imagine how many years bad luck you'd get if you broke one of those mirrors during a key scene.

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Peter Jackson reveals the Red Epic secrets behind The Hobbit (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 05 Nov 2011 04:08:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Jonathan Coulton talks coding, Creative Commons and becoming an internet rockstar (video)

There are few ways of endearing yourself to the geek world more quickly than writing a song like "Code Monkey." The developer-friendly track was one of 52 released as part of Jonathan Coulton's year-long "Thing a Week" project and was later adopted as the theme song for a similarly-titled G4 program. The songwriter was just adhering to that old adage of "writing what you know," having worked as a full-time computer programmer prior to giving the music world a go -- though, as he readily admits, he still keeps it real by coding for his own site. We sat down with Coulton as part of this month's Engadget Show, discussing his midlife crisis-driven decision to quit his day job and the journey that the internet played in making him a star. We also discussed the musician's favorite tech, his love of Creative Commons and using gadgets to make music. Coulton also treated us to three songs, including "Still Alive" from the Portal soundtrack and two tracks off his brand new record Artificial Heart. Video of all that after the break.

Continue reading Jonathan Coulton talks coding, Creative Commons and becoming an internet rockstar (video)

Jonathan Coulton talks coding, Creative Commons and becoming an internet rockstar (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Netflix rises to 25 million subscribers in Q2, thinks DVD business has already peaked

If you were still wondering why Netflix chose right now to split apart its unlimited DVD and streaming movie plans you need look no further than the just released Q2 financial report. According to the numbers, 75 percent of new subscribers were picking streaming only plans, while the total number of people on the hybrid DVD / streaming plan had actually decreased slightly, even as it breached 25 million subscribers worldwide. Of course, it did notice the intense backlash to the new rates, but predicts that after the hit of cancellations by the end of the third quarter it will still have 22 million people subscribed to streaming, 15 million total subscribed to DVDs, and about 12 million customers with both. Waiting on that Facebook integration? Don't hold your breath, while the new features are due to launch in Canada and Latin America, it claims ambiguous wording in the Video Privacy Protection Act is holding things back domestically.

Other details include confirmation it will not look into purchasing Hulu Plus, and that it's still negotiating a renewal of its deal with Starz. While the DVD business may have peaked, it's not quite dead yet and Netflix indicated it will start marketing that feature again in the fourth quarter. Click the source link to paw through the PDF yourself for other tidbits, we'll be keeping an ear tuned to the investor call later to find out exactly what the company's executives are thinking.


Netflix rises to 25 million subscribers in Q2, thinks DVD business has already peaked originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 25 Jul 2011 16:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Best Buy puts your music in the cloud, goes where others have gone before

Google, Amazon, and Apple have been hogging the headlines when it comes to storing your tunes in the internet ether. That doesn't mean there isn't room for another musically inclined cloud contender -- or at least, that's how Best Buy sees things. The big blue box has rolled out its aptly (if uncreatively) named Music Cloud service that lets you upload your audio to its servers and stream it wherever you go. You can also save songs locally, plus there are apps for Androids, Blackberrys, and iPhones to manage and play your music. There are two flavors of Music Cloud, Lite and Premium. The former is free, while the latter costs $3.99 a month, though Best Buy hasn't said what the difference is (other than price) between the two. The catch? It's currently only capable of grabbing songs from iTunes, so no uploading from file folders. Let's hope that's only a temporary problem.

Best Buy puts your music in the cloud, goes where others have gone before originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 22 Jun 2011 01:30:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Redbox starts renting out video games nationwide, charges $2 for your Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii pleasure

Exactly as promised, Redbox is today inaugurating a new branch to its media-renting venture with the introduction of video game rentals at $2 a day. There's a pretty rich and fresh selection on offer, including the likes of Duke Nukem Forever, Dirt 3, and Brink, and you can reserve your copy online before moseying down to your nearest Redbox kiosk to execute the transaction. About 5,000 of those crimson encasements have already been partaking in the testing of this service, but now Redbox is flipping the switch on the other 21,000 across the US and making things officially official.

Redbox starts renting out video games nationwide, charges $2 for your Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii pleasure originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 17 Jun 2011 05:21:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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comments’s new look is focused on streaming, cribs UI elements from connected TV apps

Do not be alarmed, your experience has been updated today "with a new look and feel to make it easier for you to find something to watch instantly." While the header introduced late last year remains and sticks on screen as you scroll vertically, box art of queued movies fills the screen horizontally. The redesign takes significant cues from the HTML5 UIs recently rolled out to most streaming devices, but it's not clear if this related to some of the queue shuffling we've been seeing recently. Responses on the Netflix blog have been mostly negative, although just like Facebook and Twitter revamps some complaints about any change are normal.

That said, we're not fans either because it still requires an additional click to find out if a movie is in HD or has subtitles, a misdirected click starts playing the wrong movie too easily and selecting "your queue" still takes us to our discs first instead of Watch Instantly. If the new front page isn't working there's always alternatives in Netflix queue managers like and FeedFliks, or any number of mobile apps. Let us know if you'll be riding with the redesign or hitting the back button in the comments here.'s new look is focused on streaming, cribs UI elements from connected TV apps originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 08 Jun 2011 23:28:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg would have been 85 years old today.  I can think of no better way to honor his genius than to put it out there on public display…

And when you're done Howl'ing, check out Kaddish


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and
saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy
among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy &
publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear,
burning their money in wastebaskets and listening
to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through
Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in
Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their
torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares,
alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind; streets of shuddering cloud and
lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson,
illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery
dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops,
storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon
blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree
vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn,
ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless
ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine
until the noise of wheels and children brought
them down shuddering mouth-wracked and
battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance
in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's
floated out and sat through the stale beer after
noon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack
of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to
pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping
down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills
off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts
and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks
and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days
and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the
Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a
trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grind-ings and
migraines of China under junk-with-drawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the
railroad yard wondering where to go, and went,
leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing
through snow toward lonesome farms in grand-father night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy
and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively
vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary
indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore
gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight street
light smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston
seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the
brilliant Spaniard to converse about America
and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving
behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees
and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the
F.B.I. in beards and shorts with big pacifist
eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting
the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union
Square weeping and undressing while the sirens
of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed
down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked
and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight
in policecars for committing no crime but their
own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim,
the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose
gardens and the grass of public parks and
cemeteries scattering their semen freely to
whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up
with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath
when the blond & naked angel came to pierce
them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate
the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar
the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb
and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but
sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden
threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of
beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along
the floor and down the hall and ended fainting
on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and
come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling
in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning
but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sun
rise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad
stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these
poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver-joy
to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls
in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses'
rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with
gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station
solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in
dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and
picked themselves up out of basements hung
over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third
Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on
the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the
East River to open to a room full of steamheat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment
cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime
blue floodlight of the moon & their heads shall
be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested
the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their
pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the
bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned
with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded
by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty
incantations which in the yellow morning were
stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht
& tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot
for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks
fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique
stores where they thought they were growing
old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits
on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse
& the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments
of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the
fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the
drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten
into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alley
ways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of
the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes,
cried all over the street,
danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed
phonograph records of nostalgic European
1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and
threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans
in their ears and the blast of colossal steam whistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying
to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude
watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out
if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had
a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who
came back to Denver & waited in vain, who
watched over Denver & brooded & loned in
Denver and finally went away to find out the
Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying
for each other's salvation and light and breasts,
until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for
impossible criminals with golden heads and the
charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet
blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky
Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys
or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or
Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the
daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hyp
notism & were left with their insanity & their
hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
and subsequently presented themselves on the
granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads
and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin
Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational
therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic
pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of
blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible mad
man doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid
halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul,
rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench
dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare,
bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book
flung out of the tenement window, and the last
door closed at 4. A.M. and the last telephone
slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room
emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture,
a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet,
and even that imaginary,
nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and
now you're really in the total animal soup of time
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed
with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use
of the ellipse the catalog the meter & the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space
through images juxtaposed, and trapped the
archangel of the soul between 2 visual images
and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun
and dash of consciousness together jumping
with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human
prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent
and shaking with shame,
rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm
of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown,
yet putting down here what might be left to say
in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America's naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unob
tainable dollars! Children screaming under the
stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men
weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the
loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy
judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the
crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of
sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment!
Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose
blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers
are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!
Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!
Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long
streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories
dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose
smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch
whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch
whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch
whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!
Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream
Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in
Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom
I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch
who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch!
Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs!
skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
industries! spectral nations! invincible mad
houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pave-
ments, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to
Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!
gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole
boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions!
gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs!
Ten years' animal screams and suicides!
Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on
the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the
wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving!
carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
where you're madder than I am
I'm with you in Rockland
where you must feel very strange
I'm with you in Rockland
where you imitate the shade of my mother
I'm with you in Rockland
where you've murdered your twelve secretaries
I'm with you in Rockland
where you laugh at this invisible humor
I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and
is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit
the worms of the senses
I'm with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the
spinsters of Utica
I'm with you in Rockland
where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the
harpies of the Bronx
I'm with you in Rockland
where you scream in a straightjacket that you're
losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss
I'm with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul
is innocent and immortal it should never die
ungodly in an armed madhouse
I'm with you in Rockland
where fifty more shocks will never return your
soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a
cross in the void
I'm with you in Rockland
where you accuse your doctors of insanity and
plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the
fascist national Golgotha
I'm with you in Rockland
where you will split the heavens of Long Island
and resurrect your living human Jesus from the
superhuman tomb
I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twenty-five-thousand mad com-
rades all together singing the final stanzas of
the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under
our bedsheets the United States that coughs all
night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma
by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the
roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the
hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse
O skinny legions run outside O starry
spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is
here O victory forget your underwear we're free
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-
journey on the highway across America in tears
to the door of my cottage in the Western night


Tennessee bill broadens scope of ‘theft,’ wide enough to include web-based subscription services?

This week, Tennessee signed a bill that made waves across the web, with many sites claiming that sharing your log-in credentials for services such as Netflix could soon land you in the slammer. The actual story isn't that simple. The bill essentially adds onto laws pertaining to the theft of 'services' in the legal sense by covering more things that can be defined under the title. For instance, the original list included cable services, to keep folks from jacking free HBO -- now, stealing "entertainment subscription services" can make you a felon as well.

Tennessee has always been a hotspot for the recording industry, so there's almost no question about what this bill was meant to fight; during a senate hearing for the bill, the RIAA itself explained that online music services could be pirated via password sharing. It also added, though, that users who share passwords "en-masse" are the focus, rather than individual cases like it had pursued in the past.

However, this bill covers more than online services and could even extend to physical media such as magazines, another example vulnerable to this type of theft. Furthermore, while sharing passwords to these "entertainment services" may be illegal after its enactment on July 1st, that's not what this legislation is technically about; the RIAA would still need to prove that password sharing equates to theft in a court of law. You can check the links down below for more details.

Tennessee bill broadens scope of 'theft,' wide enough to include web-based subscription services? originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 03 Jun 2011 09:02:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hulu, Miramax deal means Netflix, Hulu Plus both add Pulp Fiction and more starting today

According to a blog post and press release (after the break) Hulu is bringing Miramax films to its free and paid Hulu Plus services. This is also the same day the Miramax deal kicks in for Netflix, so both just added notable movies including Clerks, Swingers, Basquiat, The Crow and Reservoir Dogs. Miramax movies on Hulu Plus are presented ad-free and in HD, just like on Netflix Watch Instantly, and both appear to have the same selection available, although one negative side effect of parity is that neither has optional closed captions on streaming for any of them. The only difference so far? Soon, Hulu will offer a rotation of 15 Miramax movies per month through for ad-supported viewing. While we're sure some will wait for Miramax to work through its Blu-ray release backlog (CEO Mike Lang is on it, although we still don't have a date for Pulp Fiction) it's good to suddenly see a catalog that had been locked away due to the studio's pending sale suddenly become available through so many outlets.

Continue reading Hulu, Miramax deal means Netflix, Hulu Plus both add Pulp Fiction and more starting today

Hulu, Miramax deal means Netflix, Hulu Plus both add Pulp Fiction and more starting today originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 01 Jun 2011 12:49:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Saturday Night At TheMovies: SIFFting through cinema, Pt. 2

The Seattle International Film Festival is in full swing, so over the next several weeks I will be bringing you highlights. Navigating a film festival is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. SIFF is presenting 441 films over 25 days. That’s great for independently wealthy types, but for those of us who work for a living (*cough*), it’s tough to find the time and energy that it would take to catch 17.6 films a day (yes-I did the math). I do take consolation from my observation that the ratio of less-than-stellar (too many) to quality offerings (too few) at a film festival differs little from any Friday night crapshoot at the multiplex. The trick lies in developing a sixth sense for films most likely to be up your alley (in my case, embracing my OCD and channeling it like a cinematic divining rod.) Hopefully, some of these will be coming soon to a theater near you. So-let’s go SIFFting!

Another Earth is a “sci-fi” film mostly in the academic sense; don’t expect to see CGI aliens in 3-D. Orbiting somewhere in proximity of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, its concerns are more metaphysical than astrophysical. And not unlike a Tarkovsky film, it demands your full and undivided attention. Writer-director Mike Cahill’s auspicious narrative feature debut concerns an M.I.T.-bound young woman (co-scripter Brit Marling) who makes a fateful decision to get behind the wheel after a few belts. The resultant tragedy kills two people, and leaves the life of the survivor, a music composer (William Mapother) in shambles. After serving prison time, the guilt-wracked young woman, determined to do penance, ingratiates herself into the widower’s life (he doesn’t realize who she is). Complications ensue. Oh-the “sci-fi” part? On the night of the accident, a duplicate Earth was discovered (doppelgangers!). Assuming “they” discovered “us” (or vice-versa) simultaneously, scientists postulate that synchronicity was broken at that instant. Kind of leaves the door open for second chances-or does it? I’m not telling. See it yourself (it opens in August)-and prepare to have your mind blown.

Bruce Lee, My Brother looked (on paper, at least) like it could have been this year’s Nowhere Boy; the portrait of a pop culture icon as a young man growing up in a port town, and culminating on the eve of international fame and fortune. I realize that comparing John Lennon and Bruce Lee is sort of like apples and oranges-but I think you catch my drift (everybody has to start somewhere, and all that). Co-directors Manfred Wong (who also wrote the screenplay) and Wai Man Yip based their biopic on the memoir of Lee’s younger brother Robert (although it is interesting to note the disclaimer in the opening credits that disavows any endorsement by or participation with the Bruce Lee estate regarding this project). Not that the film necessarily dishes any dirt. In fact, it’s a relatively tame, by-the-numbers affair, recounting young Lee Jun-fan’s formative years growing up in Hong Kong (he was born in San Francisco, but his acting-troupe parents were not U.S. citizens). For a movie about someone who went on to become one of filmdom’s premier action movie superstars, there’s very little action. Still, it’s slick and entertaining (if short on insight) and leading man Aarif Rahman plays his role with verve.

Gainsbourg: a Heroic Life is another biopic that looked intriguing on paper-but I’m sorry to be a party pooper and tell you that it contains scant little to recommend it. So who was Serge Gainsbourg? He was an odd little homunculus who was a so-so painter, questionable poet and inexplicable pop music icon (well, in France). Nonetheless, he apparently had babe magnet kavorka (he bedded Bardot and wedded English supermodel Jane Birkin, with whom he co-created what I consider his Greatest Hit-the leggy and talented Charlotte Gainsbourg). His music career was largely built on the success of one tune-“Je t’aime…moi non plus”, featuring Birkin essentially feigning an orgasm at the denouement, over an organ riff suspiciously similar to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (surely paving the way for future seduction mix tape staples like “Love to Love You Baby” and “Jungle Fever”). Star Eric Elmosnino bears an uncanny resemblance and chain-smokes Gitanes with conviction, but director Joann Sfar seems more enamored with his own cinematic technique than with his subject; it’s an impressionistic study that barely makes any impression at all. I now can only pray that a Rod McKuen biopic isn’t in the works…

The Trip is the latest from eclectic British director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Road to Guantanamo). Pared down into feature film length from the 6-episode BBC TV series of the same name, it is essentially a highlight reel of that show-which is not to denigrate it, because it is the most genuinely hilarious comedy I’ve seen in many a moon (genuinely hilarious “comedies” are such a rarity these days). The levity is due in no small part to Winterbottom’s two stars-Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, basically playing themselves in this mashup of My Dinner with Andre and Sideways. Coogan is asked by a British newspaper to take a “restaurant tour” of England’s bucolic Lake District, and review the eateries. He initially plans to take his girlfriend along, but since their relationship is going through a rocky period, he asks his pal, fellow actor Brydon, to accompany him. This simple narrative setup is basically an excuse to sit back and enjoy Coogan and Brydon’s brilliant comic riffing (much of it feels improvised) on everything from relationships to the “proper” way to do Michael Caine impressions. There’s some unexpected poignancy as well-but for the most part, it’s pure comedy gold.

Killing Bono is a darkly funny, bittersweet and thoroughly engaging rock ‘n’ roll fable from the UK, based on a true story. A cross between Anvil: The Story of Anvil and I Shot Andy Warhol, it revisits familiar territory: the trials and tribulations of the “almost famous”. Dublin-based writer/aspiring rock star Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes) co-founds a band called Yeah! Yeah! with his brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) right about the same time that their school chum Paul Hewson puts together a quartet who call themselves The Hype. The two outfits engage in a friendly race to see who can get signed to a label first. Eventually, the Hype change their name to U2, Hewson reinvents himself as “Bono” and-well, you know. In the meantime, the McCormick brothers go nowhere fast, as the increasingly embittered and obsessed Neil plays Salieri to Bono’s Mozart. There are likely very few people on the planet who know what it feels like to be Pete Best (aside from Pete Best)-but I suspect that one of the players in this particular drama knows that feeling-and my heart goes out to him (no spoilers!). Nick Hamm directs a wonderful cast, which includes a fine swan song performance from the great Pete Postlethwaite (R.I.P.).

Trollhunter is the latest entry in the fake “found footage” genre, and if it ever catches on as a cult phenom, it could very well leave The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield in the dust (if you’re into that sort of thing). Like its predecessors, it features an unremarkable, no-name cast; but then again you don’t really require the services of an Olivier when most of the dialog is along the lines of “Where ARE you!?”, “Jesus Christ, look at the size of that fucking thing!”, “RUN!!!” or the ever popular “AieEEE!”. Seriously, though- what I like about Andre Ovredal’s film (aside from the surprisingly convincing monsters) is the way he cleverly weaves wry commentary on religion and politics into his narrative. The story concerns three Norwegian film students who initially set off to do an expose on illegal bear poaching, but become embroiled with a clandestine government program to rid Norway of some nasty trolls who have been terrorizing the remote areas of the country (you’ll have to suspend your disbelief as to how the government has been able to “cover up” 200 foot tall monsters rampaging about). The “trollhunter” himself is quite a character. And one thing to remember while hunting trolls…leave the Christians at home!

The Thief of Bagdad: Re-imagined by Shadoe Stevens with the music of E.L.O. was one of those film-going experiences where about halfway through, I was kicking myself in the ass for not having had the foresight to do a Marley-sized bong hit before leaving the house (I suspect that Mr. Stevens came up with the idea after doing a few Marley-sized bong hits himself). Since the wordy title doubles as a synopsis, all I need add is that this is the 1924 silent version, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Douglas Fairbanks as the wily thief who steals the heart of a beautiful princess. Stevens (a venerable L.A. radio personality) was at the screening, and recounted several decades of tweaking to find a perfect contemporary soundtrack. So does it work? Well, I’ve never been a huge E.L.O. fan (IMHO Jeff Lynne’s a talented guy who has a tendency to “over-arrange” his songs into a sonic wash), but I’ll be damned if it ain’t a marriage made in heaven between over-produced chamber pop and overwrought silent film histrionics. I’m not sure if it’s headed your way, but in the meantime, you can always amuse yourself with the old standby. You know…watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon (*exhale*).



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