Ghostbusters 2016: What Did You Think?

Opening weekend sales are projected to gross $35 to $49 million

It seems like Ghostbusters fans have been spending the past year dodging troll boogies from disgruntled Ghostbusters fans who just couldn’t wrap their heads around an all-female cast in a reboot of the film. Most people argued that it is about not wanting to see a remake (even though the movie already had a lesser-than sequel and several cartoon shows), while others said that remakes were only supposed to be made to improve upon original films. (In this case, the 51% of the population that identifies as female might argue that it’s an improvement if we get to see a woman in a Ghostbusters uniform, especially after having wanted to be Ghostbusters as kids…)

But others openly stated they hated the idea of the movie and will not see it at any cost just because it features an all-female cast, which is a shame, considering that reviews are pouring in and they are largely positive—especially, without surprise, among the female critics. The film itself even beat both Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy’s previous records for opening night sales. Although Rotten Tomatoes has certified it as Fresh, viewer reviews, many from male viewers, are far less positive. Studies show that female film critics are outnumbered in the media, which is no surprise, but my question is whether or not the film is simply likeable.

Whether you went into it expecting it to break glass ceilings or ruin your childhood, did you actually enjoy the movie? Was it funny? Was it worth the time you spent watching it? If so, isn’t that the reason we go to movies anyway? And if you refuse to go, you’re going to refuse to attend any other Batman, Spider-man, etc. reboot too… right? Because if your real issue is about remakes, then why see any remake?

I haven’t seen the movie myself just yet, but I look forward to catching it with my family next week. While I will agree that the original trailer was not very exciting, I wouldn’t say that it was a bomb, either, and my child really enjoyed it. Go check out the character sneak peeks if you’re still on the fence about going—those are so much funnier and richer. I hear McKinnon is particularly a force to be reckoned with in the movie and I can’t wait to see her performance. Neither can my daughter, who painted a Ghostbusters symbol on her wall just last summer.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Netflix slowly climbing back to the top

Still has a ways to go, though.

Netflix stock passed the $100 per share mark this morning, for the first time since last April. The company's stock price still has a way to go to get back to its peak price of about $275 per share back in early 2011. But things are looking up for a company that has managed to weather a pretty bad year. (A year which, let us be clear, was bad because of the company's own devising.) And some analysts warn that the $100 per share price represents an overvaluation of the stock. Nevertheless, I bet there have been a lot of smiles around the Netflix corporate offices today.

Part of the boost to the stock price came with the Monday announcement that Netflix had signed a deal with Time Warner. It will only bring eight television shows into the Netflix fold, but it seems like a good sign. Maybe Netflix is finally getting its foot in the door, content wise, and more arrangements with Time Warner will follow.

The eight shows coming to Netflix are:
  • NBC: Revolution
  • USA Network: Political Animals
  • A&E: Longmire
  • ABC: 666 Park Avenue
  • FOX: Fringe
  • FOX: The Following
  • Chuck
  • The West Wing
All of these shows have new episodes that are currently available on Hulu, with the previous seasons being available on Hulu Plus. Which means that this announcement is making things look a little bit grim for Hulu. Not to mention the fact that Hulu's CEO recently announced that he is stepping down, which will throw the company off its game until a new CEO can be found and broken into the job.
The fight over content is really getting vicious. Amazon recently announced that it will test out $7.99/month price for its Prime service, which would include streaming video. 
The price is meant to position it as a direct competitor to Netflix. But having sampled the video selection for offer with Prime, I can tell you that it is pretty lousy. Only a very small subset of video is available in the Prime library. The same stuff, for the most part, that is available on Hulu Plus and Netflix Streaming. 
Of course, Amazon's offering also brings all-you-can-eat free two-day shipping with that $8/month price tag, which can sweeten the deal. 
It seems like Netflix is facing tough competition on every side: Hulu, Amazon, Google, Redbox and Verizon are all duking it out with the red envelope for the hearts and minds and wallets of subscribers. 

Netflix signs deal with Disney

Titles will be returning, but no new Disney movies until 2016

Netflix is finally starting to regain some of the ground it has lost over the last few years. Today the company announced that they have come to an agreement with Disney, which will bring a huge number of family-friendly moves back onto the Netflix Streaming service.

The absence of Disney and Pixar movies on Netflix Streaming has been a big problem for many customers. Parents with young children have been particularly irked by the loss of the Disney catalog from the streaming service. From classics like Dumbo to recent films like Toy Story, the kids movies just are not there. Instead, kids have to make do with straight-to-video off-brand movies like Kiara the Brave, a movie positioned to trick people into thinking it's Disney's Brave. 
The new deal will roll out in stages. Beginning Tuesday, Netflix Streaming subscribers will have access to classic Disney movies, including Dumbo, Pocahontas and Alice in Wonderland. 
The second stage begins in 2013. This is when new and recent Disney straight-to-video releases will begin showing up on Netflix Streaming.
New Disney feature films won't come to Netflix Streaming until 2016. However, this does include the intriguing possibility of the new Star Wars movie being available on Netflix Streaming, as Disney has announced a 2015 release date for their first addition to the Star Wars canon.
This 2016 date also marks the point when Starz loses its licensing exclusivity with Disney. This will be a big blow to the Starz monopoly, which has been buying up all the titles in the world over the last decade. I don't know what they are doing with the streaming rights to these movies, to be honest. But it is certainly frustrating not being able to watch them.
For those who want to watch Disney movies streaming online but can't wait for the Netflix deal to go through, I recommend Amazon's new streaming video service. It costs between $1.99 and $3.99 per "rental," which gives you access to the title for 24 hours. But it's still easier and cheaper than going to the video store. And if you don't watch enough of these movies to justify the extra cost of a Netflix DVD subscription, it's a great way to go.
Netflix is still clinging to life, but it is certainly finishing out the year in a weaker position than it started. The company recently had to adopt a hasty "poison pill" provision after a notorious corporate raider bought a big chunk of Netflix stock, presumably with the intent of staging a hostile takeover.

Netflix customers are happier; stock rises

Nowhere to go but up at this point.

Netflix stock is up by a surprising 10.8 percent after Citigroup released the results of a customer satisfaction survey which said that Netflix customers are increasingly satisfied with the service. My first thought? "There's nowhere to go but up at this point."

I don't know about anyone else, but I have finally made peace with Netflix's limited selection for their streaming service. I was infuriated about it for several months after switching from the DVD-only plan. But then I realized, hey, it's only eight bucks a month. 
That's about 26 cents per day. I definitely feel like I get my 26 cents' worth, even if every time I search for something it isn't there. Nevertheless, I'm OK with chipping in a quarter every day to watch the stuff that rolls up on the New Releases queue. I mean, hey, Season 2 of The Walking Dead just became available, as did the second season of the new "Sherlock" BBC series.
So I guess in that sense, my satisfaction levels have risen. It's definitely setting the bar low, but once again, there's nowhere to go but up.

And people's satisfaction levels are naturally going to gradually rise as we get farther and farther from the infamous Qwikster debacle. It is clear that Qwikster will be Netflix's New Coke, the thing everyone brings up when they want to mock bad corporate decisions. Netflix should just count its lucky stars it changed its mind and cut its losses so quickly. If memory served, they kept making New Coke for years after it became abundantly clear that no one liked it.
Netflix had better start recovering fast, though. A lot of competition is hot on its tail: Amazon is gaining ground, and both Verizon and Redbox are planning to release their own streaming video services between now and the end of the year. This fragmentation of the market is going to encourage a lot of people to service-hop, especially since I bet a lot of them will be offering free trials. 
Netflix has clawed its way up to a share price of $62.58, up from an all-time low of $52.81 in August, when the Qwikster debacle was at its worst. Of course, it's still a long way from the all-time high price of the stock, $133.43 per share, which the company set in February. Let that serve as a lesson to future captains of industry: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Netflix's lost year

CNET has an interesting article about the goings-on at Netflix HQ over the last year. They managed to get a lot of inside sources to talk, and everything they report really rings true. But at the same time, I can't entirely fault Netflix for its difficulties. Even though it's easy to hate on Reed Hastings (so easy!) it isn't all his fault. At least some of that blame has to be placed at the feet of the studios which are essentially holding Netflix hostage.

There is one clear and obvious misunderstanding, though. Faced with declining revenue, Hastings had to do something. He decided to raise rates, figuring that "some customers would complain but that the number would be small and the anger would quickly fade." That's an understandable perception, since that is how it happens pretty much everywhere. Have you seen the price of a bottle of Coke these days? It's crazy! They hike up the price, we carp about it, then we go back to buying it. The higher price becomes the New Normal.

But where Hastings went wrong here is in misunderstanding their audience. Netflix has always appealed primarily to nerds, and Hastings clearly had no idea what Nerd Rage is like. Nerd Rage can be triggered by the most ridiculous reasons - and a 60 percent price hike is certainly going to be considered serious by nerds, even if most of them are making $75,000 a year doing nerd things. 
And it's clear to everyone who can step back and look at the big picture that physical DVDs are on the way out. The only question is how long it will take to transition from physical media to almost exclusively digital and streaming media. I don't doubt that history will look back on Hastings with pity, as a guy who saw the future and acted accordingly - and got creamed for it, because people weren't ready.
A bigger problem is that Netflix has lost the rights to stream content from Disney, Sony, and FOX. I know I am not the only one who has switched to the streaming-only plan, only to find that "there's no there there." The lack of content on the streaming side is a major factor in people wanting to keep the DVD side of the equation, at least for the near term.
Couple that problem on the ground level, with Hastings' record-breaking arrogance in the boardroom, and it's no wonder Netflix is struggling. The question at this point is whether or not Netflix will survive. (And if not, what will take its place?)

Netflix Streaming: Not what it's cracked up to be

About three months ago, I was able to switch from the Netflix DVDs-by-mail plan to Streaming Only. This saved me a few bucks a month, and it freed me up from having to constantly travel to and from the post office. (I live in a rural area, and do not have mail delivery to my home.) 

I also enjoyed not having to plan ahead. Previously, I would have to go through all those mental gymnastics: "OK, it's Wednesday night. I have watched two of the three disks I have on hand. If I watch the third one tonight, and get them to the post office to go out with Thursday's mail, they will be received on Friday, shipped back Friday afternoon, and I should get new disks in Saturday's mail. This means I won't have anything to watch on Thursday or Friday… I wonder what's on television… or maybe I can rent a Redbox to get by…"
But there is a slight down side to the Streaming service: THEY DON'T HAVE ANY CONTENT.

It seems like Netflix Streaming is better at stocking television shows than movies. Which sucks for me, because I have cable, and have already seen most of the television shows I'm interested in. TLC's line-up is surprisingly well covered on the Streaming services. Hope you like "Toddlers & Tiaras."

I would guess that they only have about 1 out of every 20 things I want to watch. This is pretty annoying. Here is a list of things I have recently searched for, which Netflix Streaming does not have:
  • The Gilmore Girls
  • I Am Legend
  • Hidalgo
  • Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies (a PBS special)
  • War of the Worlds (the 2005 Spielberg remake)
  • Northern Exposure
  • Due South
  • Metalocalypse
  • The Last Unicorn
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • Bottle Rocket
  • The Squid and the Whale
  • Ladyhawke (they used to have this one!)
And that's just from the past few weeks. I know there have been many, many more.
And it's made worse by the way they handle it: if they don't have what you want to watch, their search box pretends that it doesn't exist. This always leaves me wondering if I hallucinated the existence of "I Am Legend," or if perhaps I spelled it wrong.
With the DVD-by-mail version of the site, if they don't have the DVD, you can still SEE THAT IT EXISTS. And you can save it to your queue, and when the disk becomes available, they push it onto your queue. This was a great feature, because when a new movie came out that I wanted to see, I would save it to my Netflix queue. Six months or a year later when it came out on disk: boom, there it was. Netflix Streaming prefers to just throw stuff down the Memory Hole if they don't have it. 

Netflix Streaming: Peeking Over the Fence

They don't make it easy!


I'm thinking about buying myself an iPad for my birthday this year. It's a silly thing to buy, but it's one of those milestone birthdays, and I'm feeling a bit silly with my money. Obviously one of my first thoughts was, can I stream Netflix on this? And should I, or should I get Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime instead?
The iPad (and most tablet-y devices) has apps that will let you stream Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime without any problem. I currently have a Netflix DVD subscription, so I wondered, what would I be missing if I switched to a streaming account? What would I be gaining by switching to Netflix streaming, versus buying a Hulu Plus subscription?
Long story short: it's impossible to say. 

One question was easy: what would the price difference be? Click "Your Account and Help" in the upper right-hand corner, then under "MANAGE ACCOUNT" click the "Change Plan" link to see all of your options. I'm currently paying about $18/month for a 3-at-a-time unlimited DVD subscription. A Streaming subscription is only $8/month, and I wouldn't have to constantly be fiddling with my queue, driving to and from the post office, and managing my media consumption to deal with the mailing delays.
Beyond that, it's hard to say. Netflix used to have a very integrated website. They had only one page for (say) Arrested Development, and you could either stream it or queue up the DVDs. But that was back when the Streaming service was new, and they were promoting combo accounts. 
There is a lot of content on Netflix which is only available for streaming, or only for DVD, but not both. I started with a simple question: was Arrested Development available for streaming? Hulu Prime has all three seasons available. They make it pretty easy for you to see this fact. Netflix? Not so much.
If you don't have a Streaming account, there doesn't appear to be any way to find out if something is available for streaming or not. If you log out of Netflix, go to the main page, then scroll to the very bottom and click "Browse Selection" you can look something up to see if Netflix has it. But they won't tell you if it's streaming, DVD, or both. 
This leaves me with only two options: be a pest and ask my friends with Netflix Streaming to check availability for me, or just take the leap and switch to Streaming. Netflix doesn't really seem to care either way, frankly. 

Netflix: One Month FREE Plus $10 Rebate

2012 deal that "makes you money" while getting free TV shows and movies.

If you have been wanting to try Netflix, now is a great time! MrRebates and Netflix are offering a FREE month - plus a $10 rebate after your first paid month. At $7.99 per month (and including the FREE trial) you could make around $2.00 for using the service for 2 months. That doesn't look right, but its true - you get the service competely FREE plus you get around $2.00 back (after all is said and done). Check it out while the promotion lasts.

DVD-Only Plans Are Back

Welcome back! Where ya been?
The way people talk, you would think that only troglodytes fall into this latter category. But I'll tell you, out here in the rural area where I live, it's more common than you might think. Also, this is a somewhat impoverished area - like all rural areas - and it's easy to rankle at the way some people brush off the very idea of a physical DVD. 

"Who watches DVDs?" I have heard so many people scoff. "Isn't everyone just streaming everything?"
Well, no, we're not. A lot of people out here don't actually have proper broadband, believe it or not. They are on satellite or 3G connections. If you have ever tried to watch Netflix streaming on either 3G or satellite internet, you will surely wish that you hadn't.
Not to mention people with accessibility issues. You may not have noticed, but Netflix streaming does not offer closed captioning or subtitles as an option. If you are hearing impaired, or if English is not your primary language, you are out of luck with Netflix streaming.
Apparently Netflix finally decided that it's more interested in getting customers than it is in being super high tech, I guess. Also I bet they are finally realizing that their streaming service is not as cheap and trouble-free as they had originally imagined. The licensing deals can be tricky, and I understand some of them have started costing Netflix a pretty penny. 
It must have stung, to have to come crawling back to the physical media. It must have caused a lot of grimaces in the board room, this idea of "giving our customers what they want." Particularly with news of the untimely death of the USPS (which are, like all other such stories about the Death of Mail, completely overheated). 
I for one welcome this return to, you know, customer service. Sorry, Netflix. I know it was pretty much the last thing you wanted to do. I know you hate those stodgy old discs that cost you so much overhead in storage and handling. But for people like me who need the DVDs (for whatever reason), we salute your decision!

Oh Netflix, You Know We Can't Quit You

After all, where are we going to go?
The New York Times has made official what I have anecdotally observed among my social circle: almost everyone who canceled their Netflix subscription over the "Qwikster" debacle has come back. Honestly, what else are you going to do? Watch television? Have you SEEN what they put on television these days? It's terrible! 
(And if it isn't terrible, wouldn't you rather watch the entire season at once without commercials? Of course you would!)
I have several friends who quit Netflix in a big huff, only to sheepishly return later. I usually only find out when they mention having watched something, and I ask something like, "Oh, is that on Hulu now?" And they have to cop to going back to Netflix.

Netflix is the bright red 500 pound gorilla. And it got that way by being the best. If you want to watch streaming television, your options are extremely limited. Amazon Prime is a pretty good substitute, but a lot of people aren't ready to make the $80/year jump. (It just seems like less of a risk when Netflix charges you $12/month, versus paying Amazon the equivalent of $6.50/month but all at once.) And reports from my friends are that Amazon Prime doesn't have the selection that Netflix streaming does, as paltry as its streaming service is (compared to the disks).
Or there's Hulu, of course. But Hulu is only useful if you buy Hulu Prime to unlock their archives. Here again we have a limited selection, and a lot of people just can't bring themselves to pay for a service (Hulu) which they feel ought to be free. There are also some compatibility issues, where people find that they can watch Netflix but not Hulu on their device of choice.
As for disks, Netflix is where it's at. Blockbuster is closing store after store, and I gave up on them after they mandated the "hard upsell" at the register. Redbox machines are convenient and cheap, if you don't watch many movies, and if you just want to see "whatever is new," rather than anything interesting, arty, off the beaten path, or more than a month old.
No, Netflix, we wish we could quit you, because sometimes your decisions can be vexing. (Even so, I have to admit, I was never all that vexed. I thought it was silly, but I understand that the prices for things go up, and that the days of physical DVDs are limited.)