Category Archives: movies

Surprise, surprise!

There was an interesting surprise this morning. It was not any newspaper; it was no DVD or Blu-ray. It was a YouTube video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3mP0c51hE), the announcement of the Downton Abbey movie coming in September. Weirdly enough, I had not felt this happy since the initial teaser of Avengers: Endgame, a movie that is now less than $100 million away from breaking the Avatar record. It is weird how a TV series with 6 seasons have had such a profound impact on viewers and I am not the only one who is amazed and happy with the coming of the movie. Hugh Bonneville, who plays the lord (aka Mr Henry Brown in both Paddington adventures), Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess of Grantham (also famous in a very well-known hotel in India), and of course the list is not complete without Jim Carter as the undoubtable Mr. Carson and some might remember him as a Transformer too.

The list is too long to go into detail and it is important to remember that. Even as the record of I, Claudius is not broken. Downton Abbey got closer to breaking that achievement than any other series ever did. When ITV started this, they had no idea how large a behemoth this would become. The foundation was given by Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford. And we all know that as a member of the House of Lords he would be able to spin a fine yard under the most mundane conditions. Yet Downton Abbey is anything but mundane and that is the first requirement into making a legendary piece. I have mentioned it before, I, Claudius had all the elements in place, for the most so does Downton Abbey. The story is excellent, the cast is amazing and many fans feel linked to many of the actors and actresses to a larger degree. The writing got the start, but it was the player that embodies the script and there is not one who gave less than 110% that part clearly shows in the end result. So there will be forum upon forum that will ask and speculate on what they will get. I reckon that a fair amount will go into the speculations of Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow) on what he will be like in the movie, antagonistic, devious or a third still to be revealed part, and let’s face it, the man ‘grew up’ on Coronation Street (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNV_Hh5ZWaE if you forgot the tune, which should be unlikely).

There is no way not to get enthusiastic on the series and now we will be getting the movie. I believe it to be an important work as it is truly the first work that would be close to thumping ‘I, Claudius’ of the throne of being the best drama in the history of TV. I personally believe that it did not achieve that, but only by a nose length. Perhaps it is because the Roman era allowed for more murder and intrigue, perhaps it is the view of lavish parties, but for the first time, it is not about the actors, each set of players was pretty much on par with the other set of players, which was an amazing achievement. As for the script, I believe that the quality of drama Robert Graves and Julian Fellowes are on par as well; the element remaining is the director, the visionary in all this. It is impossible to do this, comparing Herbert Wise to Michael Engler, Brian Percival, Catherine Morshead is unfair, it is work separated by decades of vision and technology. The fact that they all try to meet the Herbert Wise standard speaks for Mr Wise as he set the bar half a century ago and the fact that this bar is still there is slightly too amazing for words.

Yet the fact that no one ever stopped getting there speaks for those pursuing excellence in any way possible and that is what Downton Abbey also embodies, a view towards excellence and that too drives us to the movies and the mini silver screen (aka TV). I think that the end of the Victorian age and the age of George V as the UK was led from WW1 towards WW2 is often ignored, but more important than most would think, the sinking of the Titanic in the pilot, the start of WW1 and the impact of the end WW1 and the setting of the veterans as we saw its impact in Downton Abbey is an eye opener, a side that the previous generation onwards ignored is now directly reflected towards us and it impacts us and how we look at this all. A similar impact was seen with The Crown in season one when some saw the episode ‘Act of God‘, I was not born in the UK as such that episode hit me hard, I never expected such a view on chimneys, the smog it created and what kind of a health hazard it actually was in 1952, as such the way we view health hazards and the way politicians neglect it nowadays is a too little astounding.

Downton Abbey had another part shown during the episode where one hospital takes over another one, it is that part where we see the impact to the population in those years, it hits us directly as it is a real setting, not some drama, or better stated drama that doubles as reality just a little too closely. In the end you cannot have anything but the greatest respect on a part of history and how it is portrayed to us, as such the movie, even as it is about a royal visit is likely to have hidden gems that have to be seen to be enjoyed, and that is likely what the makers are hoping for. A TV series that had 11 golden globe nominees and 3 golden globes won, in 2011, Downton Abbey made the Guinness book of world records with the highest ratings for any TV show, the first time a British show got that distinction. A stage that covers 13 years of history, so as the movie is set to 1928; I wonder what we will be treated to. There is no speculation from me, I am slightly scared to be right in this case and I hope that the readers want to see the movie all the way without any spoilers, other than the ones the trailer gives us. I think that this is the biggest part of my appeal to it. On how historic events affect the characters of Downton Abbey, which historic events we will be made aware off. There were the floods of the river Thames, the Oxford English Dictionary first edition was completed, the London and North Eastern Railway’s Flying Scotsman steam-hauled express train begins to run non-stop over the 393 miles (632 km) of the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh (on my birthday no less), the voting age for women is lowered from 30 to 21, Amsterdam hosts the Olympics and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 comes into effect. All events of that year and some will be mentioned; optionally we will be introduced to the discussions on it. Downton Abbey will give so many reasons to watch it and as far as I can tell (judging from the TV series) absolutely no reason not to go see it on the large silver screen (aka not the TV).

We still have 15 weeks to go before the movie makes it to the big screen, and as I see it, September 2019 can’t come soon enough.

 

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Merely the beginning

Yes, the news is full of the overwhelming success that Avengers: Endgame is and rightfully so, yet the Washington Post looks further. The article (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/avengers-endgamemakes-disney-invincible-in-2019-then-what/2019/04/29/b5e35016-6aaf-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html) gives light to the strategy that is surrounding Disney plus as owners of the Marvel franchise. We get part of it with: “Disney’s films will no longer get licensed to partners such as Netflix during what’s known as the “pay one window;” instead, they’ll go exclusively on Disney+. That’s a big selling point for the streaming app, but it’s a costly decision that reduces the amount of licensing revenue Disney can earn from its films after they leave theaters.” this is a point of view that is true and the strategy is valid, yet having the stage where we see a time exclusivity (like in gaming) where the others get the option after 6 months is not to be ignored as an alternative. In addition, the mention of the ‘real’ editions of the time honoured animations like Aladdin and the Lion King are now on screws, especially after Dumbo has become a miserable flop. That is the puzzle that comes next, as I personally see it, the cast was golden, the director is phenomenal and the story is sound, so why did it flop and is that the premise for the other movies? We know that Robin Williams made Aladdin the success it was; this puts a megastar like Will Smith in an awkward position. To willingly step into the shadow of a giant takes monumentally sized balls to begin with and even as we know that Will Smith is no coward, willing to step into the fringe of movie making, I cannot stop being worried on how Aladdin will fare. As such the other Disney productions will be under pressure as well and that is just the beginning.

Disney has had the longest issue with being too sweet for most adults and even as we saw Pretty Woman in 1990 as a new view on what Disney could do, there was a distinct feeling that the Disney people were so far out of their comfort zone that they needed guides to find their way back. This is particularly important as Marvel has its own dark parts (more than just a few) and without that defining dark there is a larger concern down the road. I believe that so far they handled it fine, yet the worry remains: “will the wrong Disney executive demand the Marvel TV version to be lighter, sweeter and less dark“, so far what we have seen from X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants imply that we should not be worried, yet waiting with worries for too long is not good either. What I saw from Cloak and Dagger season 1 is a clear warning, yet perhaps it is also important to consider that the movies will be less in danger of becoming laced with Disney Sweetness than the TV series. Their Metascore of 68 could be considered as supporting evidence in all this. Some gave the following views: “a horribly sentimental soundtrack“, as well as “If you want a show chock full of “edgy” liberal issues thrown into the plot regardless of if it fits with the story, then look no further” (which was the most negative review) we see the initial issue. Even the more positive ones give us “Through its initial four episodes, the real star of Cloak & Dagger is the structure and editing and overall environment more than any individual actor“. I believe it that some of the changes took away the dark side that would have made Cloak a lot more appealing, it was his dark side that appealed to me in the original comics; the TV parts I saw were too emotional, I am not stating that this is a bad thing, merely that . The comic books decently graphic about his devouring hunger, I missed seeing that in the few episodes I saw. Yet it is not all bad, Mayhem is showing to be the direct confrontational angry type she was in the comic book.

This is in part my issue; Disney is seemingly trying to skate away from the darkness is what will have a larger non positive impact on series that were pretty phenomenal in comic book form. So far the silver screen Marvel productions have exceeded expectations swimmingly; it is what I saw in Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the defenders that felt off, not bad, but off.

It is not the cast or the work done, no matter what, Mike Colter makes Luke Cage totally believable and real. I believe that the scripts fell short (from my personal point of view). Perhaps it is my non-US view, the fact that there had to be complications and conspiracy plots from day one in these series is why it is falling short. Even as we hear noise like ‘creative differences’, I believe that the entire conspiracy twinkle has ran its course to the largest degree, to be honest, that is why I stopped watching Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. The series started great and then when we suddenly see an FBI director compromised around episode 6 that was it for me. Oh, and before I forget this is a series that is all about conspiracy, but the way it is done was too far out there, it lost flavour. I believe that Marvel series have been pushed into that field too much as well (as well as several other comic book based series). I believe that the effort to go too deep too fast to please an audience is exactly why appeal is lost to some degree and Luke Cage gets to pay for it (as well as Iron Fist). With over a dozen movies coming in the next 2-3 years as well as optional TV series, this critical look early on will be more essential than most realise. You see, a Marvel overdose is pretty much similar to a Star Trek overdose, at some point we lose the interest to watch it, which is actually opposite to the feelings we had with the comic books and as such we have to consider our point of view. Now, like the comic books there is a filtering, most of us do not care for all the franchises. I was a die-hard Batman and X-men fan and I never got into Spiderman that much. I still loved the movies and I read the comics at times, but it was not my number one, neither were the Fantastic Four. That’s fine because Marvel (and DC) had a flavour for everyone, so much choice, as such we would be more protective of the comics we were nuts about and that is fine too.

Yet there is still Disney to consider and their long term need to make everything too sweet and too ‘pink’. Even as we realise that most cancelations might be linked to IP and the fact that Netflix will be a direct competitor of Disney+, yet the idea that Disney is a little too uncomfortable with these dark tainted series on Disney remains a concern for many fans and as such it is a concern for some fans of these series that they are now part of Disney. The factual reasons are not out there, or perhaps better stated, there is no source I trust to give me the actual truth (except a joint statement from Marvel and Disney and that is unlikely to happen).

Even as Forbes gives us: “Marvel meanwhile plans live-action series for characters including Loki, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier, and several other characters“, the die-hard fans will now wonder whether we will get the Asgardian Wars on TV or silver screen, not only as it was an awesome story, but that also puts Asgard, the X-men and the Canadian Alpha Flight team on the range implying the coming of a few more series, or movie franchises. All of them have a large following, so Disney would be nuts to walk away from an optional few billion more. Yet that does require Disney to allow for very dark streaks in their acquired paintings and that is where the problem is likely to rise, or at least that is what I think is likely to happen.

Even as Disney can ignore everything this year, the year that Avengers: Endgame broke every record, the long term view is less of a given, with view n 2020-2023, there will be more issues and other issues to deal with, not all of them revenue driven, but revenue will be the mainstream in any discussion that surrounds whatever ‘creative differences’ we will see make the headlines on all kinds of media channels and to ignore this so early in the year is not a healthy thing to do, especially as most of the upcoming movies will be staged to bring in a billion plus each. As stated, I do not think we need to worry about the movies too much, but the Marvel TV series that will be another matter, they will be the bread and butter of Disney+ and those people like their shows a little too sugary to my taste.

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Remembering events

There is an issue in Palestine and Israel, I am not stating that Israel is innocent in events, but when I see the Guardian giving us (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/25/uk-cinemas-should-boycott-the-israeli-film-festival-seret) the headline ‘UK cinemas should boycott the Israeli film festival Seret‘, this was a letter and an opinion. I am not attacking the person, because everyone is entitled to an opinion. As such, I have no issue with: “We’re shocked and dismayed to see how many mainstream cinemas – among them Picturehouse and Everyman – are hosting this year’s Israeli film festival, Seret, whose funders and supporters include the Israeli government and a clutch of pro-Israel advocacy organisations“.

When we see that do these people remember the Sbarro event on August 9th 2001? You might think it was a long time ago, but it was merely the start of a lot of events by Palestinian terrorists. And the girl on the stretcher was wearing a white shirt, that is, until the explosion got to her, it is overwhelmingly red now. I don’t even know if she survived any of it. From my point of view, when you start bombing buses and civilian restaurants you have lost the plot and whatever case you try to bring, from that point onward the Palestinians were merely to be regarded as terrorists.

They even send rockets into Beer Sheva where it hit a kindergarten classroom (By Avi Ohayon GPO – https://www.flickr.com/photos/36313307@N06/3349461091/sizes/l/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6222905), yet in that case I will admit that there is absolutely no telling what they were actually aiming for, their material is unreliable at best.

So in all this, it is still an anti-Israel rally through an attack on culture. Now, I have stated that Israel is not entirely innocent, there are issues on both sides of the border but the only way to ever make any progress is not to ban cultural events, but to have more of them. So when we see “This UN report is the latest in 70 years of reports of mass expulsions, killings, house demolitions, detention without trial, torture, military occupation and military onslaught against the indigenous population, the Palestinians” we can clearly see that this is a pro-Palestinian article, leaving the Palestinian acts out of it. OK, I get that the writer is heavily pro-Palestinian and people are allowed to be that, freedom of expression and so on. We can also agree with part of the statement that gives us: “We cannot understand why cultural institutions continue to behave as if Israel is an ordinary democracy. It is not“, yet the part that is missing is that the State of Israel has been under non-stop terrorist attack since 1948; that part is ignored almost everywhere. Perhaps someone can explain to me how this will stop when Israel has been under unrelenting attack since it was founded? Now we can optionally disband the State of Israel, but only when Europe gives up 25% of Europe. Or did you forget that the extermination of 6 million Jews came with the disowning of millions of real estate locations? You see those 6 million owned some of the richest parts of Europe in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and a few more places. So if you can get those areas all to be re-annexed as original Jewish properties come back to talk, if not find another solution. By the way before you think of adding a number to that, it will depreciate Europe by well close to a trillion euros.

A choice was made in 1945 because of what lied ahead, it was perhaps the best solution for Europe and when we consider that the Jewish state was stolen from the Jews by the Italians between 1BC and the 5 centuries that followed, we see a larger issue. In that time part of Syria was also part of the 12 tribes of Israel, so in the end the discussion could go on for a lot longer than now. All elements that people tend to forget (because they ignore history). What should be remembered that any nation that has been under attack for three quarters of a century will at some point stop being polite, so perhaps lowering tension and embracing culture as an opening to commence a dialogue will be a lot more useful to set the steps towards an actual agreement based towards long lasting peace. And If I can see that with my lack of diplomacy and articulate cultural speech then all those artistic people, those directors, writers and others should know a lot better than putting their autograph under some short sighted narrow minded call to boycott any cultural event.

That is merely my limited view on the matter, yet I might be wrong too.

 

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Removing the floor

OK, I have made predictions in the past and most were close to spot on, some were just a little off, yet I had not ever for the life of me gotten it wrong by half a billion before. In ‘First the Soft‘ at (https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/27/first-the-soft/), I made the prediction: “we now see that Avengers: Endgame is heading towards a 700 million opening weekend (globally) is no stretch, it would make it the largest opening weekend in history“. Some claimed I was being too optimistic, perhaps I was at that a little; I now see from several sources that the estimate was off by a lot. The sources mostly re-quote Variety and when we realise that the reality of “According to Variety, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ pulled in $350 million in the US and an incredible $1.2 billion worldwide in its first weekend. This smashes the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ take by over $500 million“, we can agree that my thoughts on it being the best Marvel movie ever is not even close to the mark. The movie is now listed on 18th position of the best money making movies ever on a global scale, from naught to 18 in one weekend. This now implies that the movie could shoot to 3rd position in a week, optionally replacing Titanic in 2nd place, it is a record that James Cameron held for 21 years, and he also held the number one spot for 10 years which is now in equal danger of getting surpassed by Avengers: Endgame soon thereafter. I believe that will happen, yet the speed at which this could be happening at has never been seen before.

This news is actually more important than you might think. You see Hollywood is nothing if not revenue driven, so there is every chance that my beloved comic books form the 70’s and 80’s will find themselves to the big screen or some Netflix streaming channel. This is both awesome and optionally sad. When the money makers see the amount of money Marvel just grossed, it will make them step into the fairway and claim their own billions. The sad part is that there is every chance that people will concentrate on their dollar shaped pupils and forget that Avengers: Endgame is the result of 11 years and 22 movies, so whatever they do they need to be careful not to squander the option they would acquire.

One of the front runners in this would be the work of Don Lawrence. He became famous with the works of the Trigan Empire as well as Storm. The Trigan Empire has everything to become stellar, it is placed in what would be a ‘Nova Roma’ A roman empire but in the 21st century, so we get decadence, martial impact (for references see the Spartacus series), direct encounters (read: sex, combat and confrontational resolutions) as well as other elements making it highly desirable to the watchful eyes of millions. Getting it right would be an essential part in all this. Remember, that I Claudius failed in the first attempt until it was done right in the 70’s.

In second place there is the Spanish artist Segrelles who gave us ‘El Mercenario‘, a little more fantasy, but most pleasing to the eye in more than one way. It is utterly lacking realism (the dragons are a dead giveaway) but the stories have been intriguing since the beginning and the art has a certain flair that does go with the need for excellent story telling.

I am not giving you a top three. There are so many considerations. There is the Flash Gordon from the 70’s, there is Diabolik, although in this case it seems that Murdoch’s European pay-tv operation are already on that case, so I reckon that if they make that one dark enough, they might have an instant hit. This all has one additional benefit for me, there is every chance that someone will consider reprinting the comics by Angela and Luciana Giussani, a win-win for all. I believe that technology was the greatest push here. Now that special effects can set the stage more closely to what the comic book makers envisioned and gave to their audience, the sky has become the limit and as we see more and more revenue towards streaming, there is every chance that the biggest delays will be finding the actors committing to a series and finding the right actors, manpower will become the largest obstacle for moviemakers in the foreseeable future. I will happily volunteer there, but I know I am no Inspector Ginko (or inspector Gadget for that matter).

Yet we can also look into the other direction, for that we merely need to seek out André Franquin and his office boy Gaston, every company seemingly has one and therefor would bring instant joy, laughter and entertainment on a global scale, all mostly untapped ideas as American Netflix has been too localised in their searches (as well as the method of finding new stuff). Yet with Disney Plus on the horizon and other players like Stan making more and more waves, we might see a bidding war for the IP rights of these works soon enough.

 

 

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First the soft

There is a wave of anticipation, having seen Avengers Endgame on opening night two days ago, we see the anticipation rush through. There will be no spoilers here, but I can give advance warning of the dangerous side shows in the cinema. You see, the final part is a three hour movie and worth watching, yet watching the parents with younger sidekicks watch the movie whilst the parent realising that after two hours the bladder of junior is under pressure is a sight to see. I saw at least two fathers rushing themselves (as well as junior) to the bathroom hooping not to miss too much is a sight to take momentary notice of.

Taking a large/jumbo drink into a three hour movie is a really bad idea!

The second one is sweet. In at least two points in the movie, something huge happens and it is a sight to behold, I was not ready for large crowds to stand up and cheer and clap, it was a little unexpected, the movie gets you that deep into the story, it is an amazing one and we get volley after volley of amazing moments for almost three hours.

So when we now see that Avengers: Endgame is heading towards a 700 million opening weekend (globally) is no stretch, it would make it the largest opening weekend in history. The three most successful movies never pulled that off, so Avatar, Titanic and Star Wars: the force awakens will not be the contenders. The question becomes, can Endgame surpass the opening weekend of Avengers: Infinity War, which had an opening weekend of $630 million. There is however one side that hold endgame back, as a few nations open a week later, and as at present the overseas record has not been surpassed, the end result is not a given, I believe that the movie has what it takes to surpass Infinity War in every way, in the end, it becomes a roll of the dice (to some extent). I believe that this movie has the goods to surpass the amazing results that Avengers: Infinity War brought, I believe to be proven right in the next week. I hope to be able to see the 3D version at that point.

So we end the soft part of the day with a detailed view on Bradley Cooper, who is going to be in the movie and that is not a spoiler at all.

 

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The TV as a weapon

There is an old saying and there are alternatives to it. In Australia we say:

Q: Do you know the difference between ABC and Channel 7?
A: ABC shows you how bad things are in the world, Channel 7 shows you how screwed up your TV life is.

In the Netherlands it used to be NOS versus SBS6, and every nation has its own version. So what happens, when we see the millions of smart TV’s and Apple enters the race opposing Netflix? The New Daily gives the quote: “Spielberg who appeared live, touted the revival of his Amazing Stories anthology, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original, The Morning Show” with the added: “a range of new streaming entertainment services, as well as financial products, at a star-studded event Tuesday morning“. the message was apparently clearly brought and when we get to see: “Apple is expected to spend US$2 billion this year on original content to challenge established steaming players Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney+ service“, we need to realise that Apple has an optional goldmine in the making. In addition we see: “Hot on the heels of the Google game streaming service, Stadia, Apple launched Apple Arcade in a bid to grab a slice of the multi-billion dollar gaming market“, which will be fun to watch as Apple has shown a keen interest in negating the need of gamers (which is not all their fault in all honesty), will they figure it out this time? At least with the established Android gaming platform size, Google does have a huge advantage for now. OK, apple does have a gaming community on IOS and I was not short selling that (yes, I was). Yet the overall view I have seen in the past gives a better light of gaming to gamers on the android, than the Apple (a mere personal view on the matter).

So here we are watching two streams being created. First is the Netflix drain by Apple and as soon as they realise that 2 billion is a mere stack of money, to get the TV series that get the people to sign up, even besides Netflix will requires series that surpass The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Hill House, Bird Box and a few other gems, Netflix has the writers, will Apple have them? We all know that Game of Thrones will enter their final season, so there are plenty of needy watchers to pick up after that conclusion, yet if Apple does not have the IP, they are not going anywhere. Even with the added Spielberg Amazing Stories anthology, which was actually quite decent when it was initially released on VHS, they will still have quite the task at hand. More important, even if they have all the ducks in a row, they will still having to deal with the market shares of Hulu, Stan, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney + service as well (and a few local others). Do they have the IP when that goes online? I can see half a dozen series that could be hits, and I am not the only one. Plenty of dedicated story tellers will have a list. Yet, does the Apple executive (whomever Tim Cook handed this hot potato to), does that person have a clue? The difference between a good presentation and an actual good idea comes with a gap that can fit the Grand Canyon and many Apple executives are a little lost when they face that gap.

It goes further, having a great idea is not enough and most visionaries have that in mind. to see that part we need to reflect on: “Apple, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August last year, had been dropping cryptic hints about the launch event for weeks, sending the internet rumour-mill into overdrive“, yet since then Apple lost well over 20% of its value and the next few ‘slam bam’ misers will dent that even further. The next part is interesting as it impacts gaming and TV.

To get a great product you need at the very least (before marketing gets to have a go):

  1. A script, a story that will compel the reader to go on. Loading it with sex and graphics will only hold a small percentage for some time. A great example of a near perfect script was I Claudius by Robert Graves.
  2. A cast that works well together, each good actors, but together they become ambrosia, wine and nitro-glycerine, all at the same time. Again I Claudius became the golden standard. With Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner, John Hurt, Patrick Steward, Ian Ogilvy, John Castle, and John Rhys-Davies we got something unheard of. They were already good actors, yet together they created greatness, they are now globally celebrities, but in 1976 that was not a given, they were iron rods and the director shaped them into high tempered steel increasing their mark close to tenfold.
  3. The director. Not merely the man implying 3, 2, 1, action! No, he is the person that becomes the visual visionary and Herbert Wise delivered. The evidence is seen in his work. As a director he has 91 marks on his career rod and when we look at it all, it is all decent work, insightful work, yet I Claudius is a 180 cm person walking in Indonesia (where the average height is 152cm), it stood out tall above all others. So, even as we accept that I Claudius could not have been done without the cast, it equally required the right director to make it work.
  4. The Producer (in this case the BBC), who had to put up the dough with a need of blind faith and no idea how much they were going to lose. These four required to be completely in sync and they were as such I Claudius is still seen as the best BBC drama ever produced, even now, 43 years later we see that new TV series merely hope to equal this achievement, thinking that it can be surpassed is mere folly (yet optionally not impossible).

This is the setting that Apple is trying to get into and throwing 2 billion at it thinking that it will be easy by presenting a few famous people is as reliable as getting rich by spending what you have on blow and hookers. It looks pretty, yet it is an absolute non-winner 100% of the time. Finding the right people will be the task for Apple and as they are all competing for the same pig through increasing the value of good scriptwriters, yet they too are starting to look critical at the offers, because they lose value with every failure and often enough, they do not get to blame the director of the production company, they get to be the scapegoat. So they will require their optional bosses to set an income and levels of freedom and commitment to a much higher degree.

As for gaming

Gaming has a similar setting. It will be about getting the gamers on board and that requires a great product, in an age where Apple has been all about marketed iteration, they are vying for innovation? In a market they do not seem to really comprehend? I am slightly puzzled.

There the director is the project director; the cast are the graphic designers and the scripters and coders. The art and stage might have similar issues, but finding these parts to intertwine and interconnect is where good coders are required. Then there is the learning curve of the game. And it gets to be worse fast when it becomes a product relying on micro transactions. Ubisoft, Bethesda too never quite worked it out and the first screw up will diminish the value of the event overnight. Apple will have to steer clear of micro transactions in the first year by a certainty of 100% and in the subsequent 2-3 years for 90%. Can they afford that game? Their essential path will be the RPG games that call the horn of attendance for gamers on a global scale, if not, than this becomes a long term project that will not end up becoming a winner. In that they have additional competition form makers like Nintendo, their Switch is still gaining momentum and the games I have seen lined up for that system shows that Nintendo is taking this momentum extremely serious. I wonder if Apple has thought this through beyond their return on investment expectations from executives who rely in spreadsheets and lack essential data skills other than identifying their ROI and bonus column. Once that goes south Apple will take a few hits in short succession and they will be painful. If it goes wrong (I am not stating or indication that this is the case), they could face the hits where their total value is a mere 50% of what it was on September 16th 2018.

Yes, Apple could rise high with streaming on TV and consoles, but in the end they require the golden eggs to get there and I am not convinced that they have what it takes to get there. For the most it is an art, I have been involved in gaming since 1984 and I still miss elements in all it. It is both science and an art, the moment you separate the two is the moment you lose. That has been an essential given for close to two decades. Ubisoft got it wrong more than once, Bethesda took massive hits with miscalculations and they are dedicated experts in that field, I doubt Apple has seen that shortfall at present.

To illustrate that we need to look at a game called the Division 2, an Ubisoft product. Important fact, it is seen as a really good game, better than the first version and steps forward, at times leaps forward, some reviewers have stated that is sets a new bar of online gaming and that is awesome to learn. Now add the two headlines: ‘Ubisoft Patches Annoying ‘The Division 2’ Skills Bug‘, as well as ‘The Division 2 PC players report a 100% CPU usage issue, Ubisoft is investigating‘, on games this size this will always happen and the fact that it is looked at and fixed this early is really good, so this is not about pulling Division 2 down. This is what happens on games this big depending on online elements, which is besides server down times. A consequence of online gaming and in this Apple is as I expect it not ready to see gaming to the higher levels it needs to see it.

If they see these two elements as a method to use the TV as a weapon, a data weapon for additional wealth, we see a company that is about to get hit really hard. That is in the foundation of it all. I believe that they are making the same mistake that Microsoft made. Microsoft is talking a good talk, yet the people all over the world are seeing the impact, the most powerful console in the world is being surpassed by the weakest of the three. Their setting of always online, their bullying tactics, their essential inability to listen to gamers (or ignoring what they are being told) is what is dragging down Microsoft and Apple will experience that lesson in a very hard way soon enough if they walk that same silly line.

Just like Microsoft, we see a company that more likely than not does not comprehend gamers and will falter because of corporate ROI needs soon enough. They see the two as connected to grow better, but these are two separate entities (TV and Gaming) representing 6 dimensions that can go in any direction, when these executives learn that lesson the hard way and they are looking what to do next, I will offer Tim Cook my last $99 for the company (Apple, a fruit of the loom division).

Could I be massively wrong?

Absolutely, yet the Apple marketing need of the hype and their viral needs seem to be on my side, as the gaming industry as a whole tends to be as gossipy as any old tea lady, so word would have circulated into my inner core of contacts much earlier, as such I think that Apple is not ready, nowhere near ready, personally I do hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see more contenders in the gaming world, more choice, more innovation and better games is the consequence from that war, and I do love playing good games.

I will keep you all posted on what happens next.

 

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With Netflix in mind

I was getting my zone on this morning (through caffeine) and as I saw something pass by last night (way too late) I decided to try and revisit what I shoved on the side something that was regarding Netflix. It was the only bold word I remembered from the 03:12 moment, and as such I did a search. I was not successful (at present); I did get a whole range of other items. Titles like ‘Terrace House on Netflix is an antidote to a world gone insane‘, ‘Netflix’s New Mini-Seasons Steal an Old Trick from Broadcast TV‘, as well as ‘Why Ben Affleck’s ‘Triple Frontier’ is your new macho Netflix guilty pleasure‘, the title or whatever passed me by was not there. It got me to thinking about certain series. You see, in a sea of options people get to drown because they cannot decide. Most (like me) want more than just a little 42 minute hype and that got me to one of the best BBC Drama’s around in decades (besides I, Claudius that is). Waking the dead was brilliant for several reasons. Not only because of the cast Trevor Eve (Eddie Shoestring), Sue Johnston, Wil Johnson and Claire Goose (Jane Kennedy) all awesome as a team! The issue is that the story was deeply overwhelming as every case was a two episode one hour each. The series were not a collected short stage of items; it was an actual story, complete with events to connect to. The makers were brilliant in a few ways as the stories were amazing, but that 2 part one hour approach was the pusher to set the stage much higher than ever before. So when we see these Marvel series, these crime series and other elements. I am surprised that places like Stan and Netflix have not pondered a much larger bet, one that could pay off for a much longer time. Not some vanilla series with happy endings. But based on the stories like Constantine, Elektra, Moon Knight, and optionally some series in the 90’s and 80’s that flopped. Everyone is looking at a new Buffy, Buffy was a huge success, but in that drive we forget to look at series because they failed. Some failed not because they were bad (well they were in that shape), but because we were not willing to make them dark enough and people have taken a real shine to dark TV series. By making them so dark that it makes black the new vanilla, that is the path some need to be on and it should not be some 42 minute series. It should be more like Waking the Dead, 2 episodes of a full hour. You can actually give the people a real story. This is not a new idea, others have voiced it and even as Hollywood is too scared to make that leap, for places like Stan and Netflix it could be the game changer. Netflix learned that when they gave the people ‘the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina‘, the totally vanilla (and family friendly series) with Melissa Joan Hart has been rewritten into something that people teenagers and those who passed that age limit decades earlier go bonkers over; the mention of a new teaser poster auto evolves into a new viral wave of messages on a global stage. We should be more like Leonard Cohen in You want it Darker? And as we remember “You want it darker, we kill the flame“, we see the stage that several ideas should push towards. It gives light to the 1973 movie ‘The Legend of Hell House‘ which seems to have been the inspiration at least in part for ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘, Netflix blew the roof of their maximum ability to entice an audience and they are not done, not by a long shot.

So how do you think the audience will react, not to some 45 minute chase, but a 2 hour hunt for some truly bad person, raw, bloody and unforgiving by someone like Elektra Natchios, not some sexy looking Jennifer Garner (there will be minimal opposition against that element), but a well-trained, decently muscled and super agile version of a comic book assassin making short work of the bodyguards. Not some 1:43 scene, but a close to a realistic invasion of a well-protected house, taking our guards, optionally avoiding staff and brutally slaughtering the target in one quick sweep, a Jane Wick without all the noise-making, to coin a phrase.

And the people will love that story; we saw that in the original Day of the Jackal with Edward Fox (not the Willis version). There are several series out there that have parts of it, but not all of it and making a double one hour episodes on that would optionally give us all, it would give a totally new appreciation of quality writing and it would show the need for actual stories, it seems that all these marvel series will soon come to a grinding halt. Too much is the same, too much are transferred idea’s from series to series. Waking the dead was never that, it was unique. The BBC writers had a golden equation. It cannot be improved upon, but it can be the mould for something entirely new. and believe me, places like Stan and Netflix are looking for new, they have billions riding on that and they cannot get it wrong, not even once, not in this day and age when they are confronted with an additional $2 billion totaling their debt presently at around $12 billion. Even as they have 139 million subscribers giving them close to $1.6 billion each month, a lot of it is infrastructure and technology. Netflix needs to find new niches to give rise to new and fresh blood that can see series and movies no one else offers and for the most others do not offer dark. Do you expect to see that happen at Disney any day soon? That is the one handicap that Marvel, now part of Disney would face, series that are slightly too vanilla for most, it gives Netflix (Stan also) an opportunity, but it is merely one window and it will not be open for too long, in the end Disney needs to find the proper valves to keep it all afloat making profit, their optional delay in making the call, that is the one brief window that places like Netflix and Stan have for now, for now that is.

They are not the only ones vying for more viewers, in that regard Season One of American Gods hit the spot right on and with the pilot of season 2 hitting just four days ago, noise is rising from so many people on needing to see it, it shows not just how right I am, it might show that what I consider dark is just not dark enough. The numbers will show soon enough if this is what will drive Amazon Prime Video faster and larger soon enough. Even as some are less positive, I believe that it is merely the story taking a moment to adjust to what comes next and that is just my personal take on it, I reckon that in 4 weeks I will be proven correct (or wrong), it is in all that we need to ask, is it about pushing the envelope, is it about something truly novel? Not unlike the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘. I believe it to be a blend of factors; the entire 43 minute mess to write it all in is no longer holding our attention well enough. There is plenty of short, there are enough movie, but in between there is a whole range of nothing. Waking the Dead had us covered and they were pretty much the only ones. It is time to see that and adjust form something like that. My money is on series of a much darker nature, most people are truly fed up with vanilla, it there is something to be learned from Bird Box that would be pretty much it. We cannot get a decent stress in a total frame of 42 minutes, yet in a double one hour episode we can get more than one and without it interfering with the quality of the story. It is not about the scare moment, it is about binding us to the scene and get us captured for the entirety of the episode, BBC solved it in the most brilliant way possible and we need to use that wisdom to create something the audience has not seen before. Novelty gets us there and having the best quality story keeps them there. From that part I believe that there is space very deep space for a new totally awesome Star Trek Movie. People were not happy about Star Trek Beyond; I do not believe it was about the acting or the directing. It was the story and there is enough evidence that they could have a two part cash cow if they hire the right writer to head that team. The nice part that if he is willing to make that jump you will get to see 125 million star Trek fans (globally) to go utterly nuts with joy, but to get that done, J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino must be willing to make quite the jump into a direction neither had taken before. If they do they end up with two movies each passing the one billion revenue mark with ease. The classics can get you there, if you know the right classical writer who can give to you what wasn’t shown before.

Innovation is not merely seeing new, it is about the need and ability to adapt into another frame not making it merely novel, but giving a classical pressure to what still is, that is the field where all the leprechauns bury their pot of gold. There are plenty of plots to draw from; you merely need one man and a decent shovel to get you there.

 

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