Awesome new Thor, Justice League and Star Trek: Discovery trailers

The trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League and Star Trek: Discovery just add to my excitement about the upcoming movies. I think the second half of this year is going to be a fantastic one for movie lovers.

I love Comic Con season. It’s that time of the year when you tend to see loads of awesome new trailers. I woke up to some awesome new trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League and Star Trek: Discovery.

Thor: Ragnarok

This movie is going to be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it!

Justice League

I seem to be one of the few people who enjoyed Batman vs Superman (more the extended version). I’m excited about this first live action Justice League movie.

Star Trek: Discovery

I wasn’t sure about the new series when it was first announced but after seeing a couple teasers and, now, the full trailer, I think this is going to be impressive.

More trailers

Ready Player One

My brother pointed this one out to me. It looks visually amazing. Still, when I watch this trailer I can’t help but think that my concern that my kids are spending way too much time in front of screens doesn’t even come close to this dystopian future world.

Love this Star Trek wallpaper for my phone

I decided to change my lock screen wallpaper today and went looking for a Star Trek wallpaper. I found one that I love and I thought I'd share it with my fellow Trekkies.

Star Trek wallpaperI decided to change my lock screen wallpaper today and went looking for a Star Trek wallpaper. I’m a bit of a fan and we’ve been watching the Star Trek Voyager series for the last couple months (we’ve already watched TNG and DS9 again).

When it comes to phone wallpapers, I prefer darker backgrounds. One reason is so my phone doesn’t become a second Sun when I am sitting in the dark with our kids, putting them to sleep. Another reason is that I want to minimise clashes with app icons and on-screen text so I can see what I’m doing.

I did a couple Google searches and came up with this great wallpaper that I love. I searched for it on my desktop and found a version on the Mobile Abyss site. It looks terrific on my phone.

Another option is this version on the same site. It has a bigger badge but a very different look. I haven’t tried it yet but it could look great on your device.

Getting to know yourself Inside Out

I just watched Inside Out with our daughter. It's a wonderful family movie that speaks to our emotions and how they change as we grow up and face new challenges. If you haven't seen it yet, make some time to do it.

I just watched Inside Out with our daughter. It’s a fun movie and I hadn’t seen it before today. If you haven’t seen it, it is very much one of those layered animated movies that kids can enjoy and that also contain a remarkable depth.

The idea of the movie is to represent a young girl’s emotions as she and her family relocate from the American Mid-West to San Francisco as five characters with their distinct personalities.

I knew what the movie was about before we watched it. What I really enjoyed about it was how the movie represented how our emotions interact and challenged common assumptions about which emotions have value and which don’t.

I’m not sure how much of the message our daughter took away from the movie but this is the sort of movie that you can watch again and again. I suspect that each time you watch it, you will take away a little more and, in the process, come to understand yourself a little better, inside out.

Giving audiences what they want, when they want it

Kevin Spacey spoke about the importance of changing with the times and giving audiences the stories they crave in the formats they want and on the devices they have in 2013. We can see the industry changing a fair amount lately and Netflix's Reed Hasting's comments at the recent Code Conference reflect this. The big question is whether the industry is paying enough attention?

I’m slowly going through my growing “Watch Later” list on YouTube. I finally watched Kevin Spacey’s speech at the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture in 2013 and it is well worth watching.

Kevin Spacey is one of my favourite actors and has been since The Usual Suspects. He spoke to the audience at the Edinburgh Television Festival about the overwhelming importance of creative professionals in the entertainment industry and about giving TV audiences what they want.

Give audiences what they want, how they want it

He highlighted a theme that has seemed so sensible to me for years and that seems to escape entertainment industry executives. This theme applies equally to music as it does to TV and movies:

The warp-speed of technological advancement – the Internet, streaming, multi-platforming – happens to have coincided with the recognition of TV as an art form. So you have this incredible confluence of a medium coming into its own JUST AS the technology for that medium is drastically shifting. Studios and networks who ignore either shift – whether the increasing sophistication of story telling, or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement – will be left behind. And if they fail to hear these warnings, audiences will evolve faster than they will. They will seek the stories and content-providers who give them what they demand – complex, smart stories available whenever they want, on whatever device they want, wherever they want. Netflix and other similar services have succeeded because they have married good content with a forward-thinking approach to viewing habits and appetites.

While we are accustomed to distinctions between movies, TV and online video, these distinctions are largely irrelevant to younger generations. Our kids certainly don’t see much of a distinction between TV series they watch on Netflix and the channels they watch on YouTube.

Movies are distinctive primarily because watching big ticket items involves a trip to the local movie theatre and having that big screen experience. At the same time, we have a pretty decent HD TV and surround sound at home and we routinely watch movies on weekend afternoons with our kids there too.

The distinctions between formats and devices are blurring all the time:

If you are watching a film on your television, is it no longer a film because you’re not watching it in the theater? If you watch a TV show on your iPad is it no longer a TV show? The device and length are irrelevant. The labels are useless – except perhaps to agents and managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals. For kids growing up now there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It’s all CONTENT. It’s all STORY.

While I understand that regional broadcasters have deals with studios and publishers that probably block global distribution of movies and TV series, this approach to distribution doesn’t serve audiences. It only benefits the broadcasters who lack the will and imagination they need to take advantage of new opportunities.

The sooner entertainment industry executives come to terms with the fact that audiences want those stories on their terms, the sooner the market as a whole will benefit. Again, as Spacey pointed out:

And the audience has spoken: they want stories. They’re dying for them. They are rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly Jifs (sic) and god knows what else about it, engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. All we have to do is give it to them. The prize fruit is right there. Shinier and juicier than it has ever been before. So it will be all the more shame on each and every one of us if we don’t reach out and seize it.

You can read Kevin Spacey’s full speech here.

Netflix wants to take on movie distributors and theaters

Netflix’s Reed Hastings recently spoke at recode’s 2017 Code Conference.

One of the tidbits that emerged from his interview is the possibility that Netflix is doing to do for movies what it did for TV. What could well happen if Netflix’s approach gains traction is that those trips to a movie theatre to watch a new movie may become less prevalent.

Just as Netflix releases its own movies directly to audiences through Netflix streaming, we could start seeing other major movies being released to streaming long before they are currently.

There is still a lot to be said for the big screen experience, for sure. At the same time, that may be a generational thing and our home theatre experiences may be happy substitutes.

Losing battle

Whether it is TV, movies or music, industry executives are fighting losing battles. Audiences want this content on their terms and if the industry doesn’t come to the party, people will find ways around their limitations.

This may mean people downloading the stuff they want instead of paying for it or simply opting out of more mainstream content.

The industry isn’t going to shrivel up and die anytime soon but imagine what the industry could achieve if it thought differently?

Image credit: Jake Hills

I channelled Yoda with our kids without meaning to

You know how you channel your parents when you become a parent? I went a step further and channelled Yoda!

You know how you seem to channel your parents when you become a parent? I managed to channel Yoda with our kids last night and I’m not sure what that says about me as a parent.

It was getting late, we were all tired from a busy weekend and it was time for the kids to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. As usual, they weren’t listening to me. They were playing on the couch instead so I reminded them to do as I asked (well, instructed) them to do.

Our daughter told me, rather indignantly, that she was “trying” to stop playing with her brother and go brush her teeth. Before I realised it, I found myself replying to her with something along these lines:

There is no trying. Do or do not. Go brush your teeth!

It didn’t help that my wife, who was in the room, immediately picked up on what I said and started laughing. Our poor daughter thought we were laughing at her. We were laughing so hard that we couldn’t explain the joke to her for a few minutes.

I guess channelling Yoda at a time like that merits a few Geek Parent points, even if I probably traumatised our daughter a little in the process.

Image credit: Travel Coffee Book

My favourite Super Bowl ads (I can’t help myself)

The annual Super Bowl is a big deal in the advertising industry. I thought I'd share some of my favourite Super Bowl ads as I come across them. There are so many to watch.

I don’t have much interest in the Super Bowl itself but I love watching Super Bowl ads. Here are some of my favourites. I’ll add more as I come across them:

Avocados from Mexico – Secret Society

This is a subtle dig at Trump and his policies, I suspect, but it’s a fun ad!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This movie just looks better with each trailer. I am looking forward to seeing this.

Old Spice – Jungle Hero

Old Spice produces awesome ads. Self-deprecating and really funny. I haven’t seen this actor in their ads before. He is terrific.

Logan – Grace

This next Wolverine movie looks like it is going to be a huge departure from the X-Men movies we are accustomed to. I doubt this will be kid-friendly but I am pretty sure it will be really good.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are real Big Screen spectacles and this next movie will be no exception. The effects already look incredible. I can’t wait to see it.

Honorary mention for Heinz – Smunday

Heinz took a different approach this year. Rather than run a super expensive Super Bowl ad, it launched a campaign to make the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday a national holiday with this YouTube ad. They’re calling it #Smunday. Love the idea (thanks to my lovely wife for pointing it out to me).


If you want to watch other ads that I don’t include in this post, check out the YouTube Ad Blitz channel:

Image credit: Pixabay

Trump’s American fascism was the stuff of 20th century fiction

Is Donald Trump fulfilling numerous prophecies of the rise of American fascism that were published in the first half of the 20th century? It certainly seems to be happening. Even if it isn't, those predictions are worth paying attention to.

Warnings about American fascism have been rife since Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States of America.

20th century writers warned about the rise of someone like Trump and it seems that their fears are being realized.

It is difficult not to see why so many are concerned if you just consider Trump’s first few weeks in office. His executive orders have challenged the foundations of one of the world’s most distinctive democracies to the point where commentators are warning about an impending constitutional crisis over his controversial travel bans.

The Guardian published a fascinating article titled “‘It will be called Americanism’: the US writers who imagined a fascist future” that makes more disturbing reading. One of the paragraphs that stood out for me is this one:

In 1944, an article called “American Fascism” appeared in the New York Times, written by then vice president Henry Wallace. “A fascist,” wrote Wallace, “is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.” Wallace predicted that American fascism would only become “really dangerous” if a “purposeful coalition” arose between crony capitalists, “poisoners of public information” and “the KKK type of demagoguery”. Those defending the new administration insist it isn’t fascism, but Americanism. This, too, was foretold: in 1938, a New York Times reporter warned: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labelled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism’.”

As Trump settles in to his new role, I think we will see many more parallels between his actions and fictional despots and fascists. Whether he will utterly subvert America’s democratic safeguards remains to be seen but the initial indications are not particularly promising.

Postscript:

Another article worth reading is David Frum’s “How to Build an Autocracy” in The Atlantic.

You can also listen to the article on SoundCloud if you’d prefer:

Chromecast sold me on Apple TV but it’s complicated

The Google Chromecast is a wonderful device. I love using it and it has sold me on the idea of an Apple TV. That said, the decision to buy one is a complicated one.

My big excitement in the last two weeks was our HD TV purchase which brought my hope for an Apple TV a little closer.

We are like those families who hung on to cabled VHS machines when everyone had moved on to DVD players. This is our first step into the modern TV era. Having bought a really nice (dumb) LG HD TV, I finally had a screen I could connect my first generation Chromecast to and see what it could really do.

I almost immediately fell in love with my Chromecast. It updated itself and I set the background to switch between photos sourced from some beautiful online collections and a couple of my Google Photos albums.

We primarily watch YouTube and Netflix with our Chromecast. They are just about the only apps we have that support Chromecast on our iOS devices. We have been Netflix fans for a while so that mostly works out just fine for us.

Yes, I prefer to pay for our entertainment

I am a bit proponent of paying for my TV series and movies so I buy just about all our movies and TV series from the iTunes store. Unfortunately the Israeli iTunes store doesn’t have as much of a movie collection as the US store and doesn’t have any TV series. This means I’m not using the Israeli iTunes store which is problematic in itself.

I am also an Apple Music fan and have been a subscriber since the service launched.

Given how invested we are in Apple-supplied content, I have my eyes on an Apple TV for our home so I can access all our content in much the same way I do with our Chromecast. I can use my laptop to access our movies and TV series but my Chromecast has spoiled me with the ability to easily watch stuff on our TV without needing to plug my laptop in and mess with displays and stuff.

Compared to the Chromecast, the Apple TV is expensive and part of my justification to my wife for buying one is that we could also use it as a gaming console and save us the cost of an X-Box or Sony Playstation (my son wants an X-Box because he can play Minecraft – I told him Minecraft is coming to the Apple TV too). She may be convinced (decision pending).

Joseph Rosensteel published an article titled “Apple’s October TV Surprise” (I linked to it from Matt Mullenweg’s post titled “Apple TV’s Struggles“) which raises more than a few questions about whether the Apple TV is worth buying. It has certainly given me reason to thinking a little more about my planned purchase.

There is no way to justify spending $150 to enter Apple’s TV ecosystem in the fall of 2016 on hardware alone. When Google is making a streaming UHD HDR player that costs LESS than a replacement Siri Remote, there is a problem with the hardware Apple is selling.

But I don’t have many paid content options

I would be pretty comfortable switching our movies and TV series across to the Google Play Store and just using the Chromecast as our primary media streaming device. Unfortunately, movies and TV series are simply not available from the Google Play Store here in Israel. Even the iTunes store offers some movies and music here!

These are the countries in which you can buy movies from the Google Play Store. Movies are available in Ivory Coast, Mali and Tajikistan but not Israel?

Albania, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Fiji, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Namibia, Netherlands, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe

TV shows
Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States

Another effect of limiting (or opening up) the availability of this sort of content is that it influences which device ecosystem you buy into and stick with. I’ve considered switching to Android on and off but remain with my iOS devices because I rely on certain iOS apps fairly heavily. I also have all of my music and, of course, my movies and TV series in Appleland too.

That largely locks me into the macOS/iOS ecosystem. Buying an Apple TV would only entrench me further in the ecosystem. Given that this is the best source of much of my entertainment and my apps, it is practically inevitable.

The absurd content availability model

This fragmented content availability confounds me. It is the 21st century. Israel has pretty good, cheap broadband and a population that is really tech savvy. Why can we not pay our hard earned Shekels for the content we want?

That is a rhetorical question. The answer is likely that the studios and publishers have deals with local distributors and those deals block availability of the content here.

What happens is that almost everyone I know simply torrents the stuff they want to watch. Our friends look at me like I am crazy when I tell them I prefer to buy our movies and TV series. They explain to me (slowly and loudly) that all I need is Kodi or some streamer and it’s all free!

Israel also has what seems to be a substantial Android user-base so extending Google’s content offerings to Israel would seem to make a lot of sense. Unfortunately the people who could change the current situation don’t seem to agree.

Opening the Google Play Store to more countries opens the door for more people also makes switching to the Google ecosystem feasible. Surely that is desirable to Google too?

So that leaves me with my current plan to invest in an Apple TV at some point in the near future. Hopefully it will be worth the cost but given where we have most of our content, it remains a compelling option. Still, it’s complicated and it needn’t be.

Featured image credit: Stocksnap