Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 1

All rankings are highly subjective, but, hey, it's me. You can trust me.

1) Netflix: May always be #1 just because it's Netflix, and right now it's getting some good vibes for recent premieres like the Pee Wee Herman movie and new seasons of "Daredevil" and "Happy Valley." But watch me complain next week about the loss of "MASH" April 1...and I am not even a fan of "MASH."

2) Hulu: I haven't been thrilled with the recent acquisitions, but the acquisitions keep coming, proving Hulu isn't done collecting content. And positive buzz is building for upcoming original "The Path."

3) HBO Now: It's way too expensive, but announcement of the return of "The Larry Sanders Show" reruns is a great bit of news.

4) Amazon Prime: I'm not into Doctor Who, either, but that's a good get for Prime in a week when many of the other contenders were off their games.

5) Shout TV: I am PUMPED to see what this FREE service adds April 1.

5) WWE Network: Expect a big surge of viewers for WrestleMania week even though the Mania build is alarmingly weak this year.

6) Pub-D-Hub: I love you, Pub-D-Hub, but you haven't updated in several weeks, and your home screen merely says no update 3/12-3/19 due to office closure. Don't go Warner Archive on us!

7) Crackle: Good news: Got some pub in the wake of the sudden passing of Garry Shandling as people realized Crackle had "Larry Sanders." Bad news: Crackle dropped the series several months ago.

8) Warner Archive Instant: Deserves credit for actually doing something for the first time in months. It actually added some movies! Unfortunately, they're TV movies that were on WAI before. Furthermore, WAI added titles to its dreaded "Leaving Soon" category. Remember when we thought this would be a real boon to classic movie lovers?

9) Tubi TV: Underrated FREE channel that deserves more love.

10) Acorn TV: Needs an influx of exciting programming.

Monday, March 28, 2016

ClassicFlix TV Time EXTRA: Top rated shows of all time

I hope you read and enjoyed my two-part look at the top-rated TV episodes of the "ClassicFlix" era over at their site. Let me plug Wesley Hyatt's book again: "Television's Top 100" isn't a cheap book, but it is loaded with info and is a fun read, too.

In these two articles, I presented these high-rated broadcasts in chronological order, unlike Hyatt's book, which ranks them according to viewers. Today I want to rank them in my order of preference.

Again, note that I am not including those episodes that aren't on DVD. From top to bottom:

1) The Fugitive, "The Judgment Part 2": An emotional, resounding finale to one of the best TV series of all time, and a classic episode that rewards multiple viewings. Tough to choose between 1 and 2.

2) The Ed Sullivan Show (Beatles debut): The Beatles are magic, despite some rough aspects to the presentation. I mean, this is TV history, the kind of event for which everyone claims they saw it even if they didn't. I feel guilty picking this second, and maybe on a different day I wouldn't! In the end, it's not an all-Beatle show, and some of the other material doesn't hold up beyond the historical value.

3) The Dick Van Dyke Show, "Third One from the Left": Not even in the top 20 of "DVDS" episodes, but so what? It's still "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

4) Gunsmoke, "Love Thy Neighbor": A powerful episode that would have benefited from the hourlong format.

5) The Beverly Hillbillies, "The Giant Jackrabbit": It's still kind of a mystery to me how this series was so popular, let alone this episode, but watching it for this piece, I was pleasantly surprised how entertaining it was. These days they'd bring the "jackrabbit" back for another guest shot during sweeps.

6) Wagon Train, "The Colter Craven Story": A solid hour, but if we didn't know it were directed by John Ford and if we didn't know of the big-time cameo, would it be so memorable? I don't think so.

7) Mayberry RFD, "Andy and Helen Get Married": I rate this over the "TAGS" episode by virtue of the "wild" bachelor party at the beginning.

8) The Andy Griffith Show, "Barney Hosts a Summit": The show is running out of steam by this point, but Don Knotts really enlivens the proceedings.

9) Bonanza, "The Pure Truth": Some nice guest star turns in this, but it's hardly the "Bonanza" you'd show to someone who has never seen the series. The main reason to watch is for the hand-wringing by the boys over how to handle Hoss' extreme horniness.

10) The Lucy Show, "Lucy Waits Up for Chris": I'm not a big fan of this series, but this one has some historical value for being the premiere episode, though.

11) Gomer Pyle, USMC, "Love Letters to the Sarge": I'm not a huge fan of Gomer, either, and this one doesn't win me over.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion: TV Time at ClassicFlix!

My new article is up at ClassicFlix, and this month I continue my exploration of the top-rated TV episodes of the 1960s. A few of these are obvious and are bedrock pieces of television history, but some may surprise you.

TV TIME: Top-Rated TV Episodes, Part 2
By Rick Brooks
Last time, we began an exploration of the highest-rated television episodes of the classic era, as reported by Wesley Hyatt in his excellent book Television's Top 100: The Most Watched American Broadcasts 1960-2010. This month we continue our journey in chronological order. As mentioned in Part 1, to avoid repetition, each series only gets one entry in Hyatt's book. Also, for the purposes of this piece, we are excluding specials, movies, and sporting events.
(click HERE for the whole article)

Check it out, and tell 'em Cultureshark sent you! Don't you dare miss it! And come back here this week for a TV Time extra in which I expand on my thoughts on these episodes.

Monday, March 21, 2016

5Q Movie Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Q: Ant-Man? Why would Marvel spend valuable time and resources on a hero like Ant-Man? I mean, remember the superhero sketch on the original "SNL" when Dan Aykroyd as Flash said, after hearing an explanation of Ant-Man's powers, "Check this guy out. He's got the strength of a human!" Then he pretends to be afraid and says, "Every molecule is quivering!"

A: Let's just say the filmmakers are well aware of that moment!

As for the character, he is kind of cool. His shrinking power brings something new to the Marvel movies, and his interaction with little robot ants looks good. They can't all be super strong or shoot lasers out of their butts.

Q: Wasn't Hank Pym the original Ant-Man? Why did they make him an old dude and go with the newer one (Scott Lang) for the movie?

A: I'm the wrong guy to ask about current incarnations of all these characters, but I will say that while, yes, Hank Pym was a founding Avenger, the current movie group has enough super geniuses. It's refreshing to see a hero who is not one.

Oh, Hank Pym is still a super genius, but he's not the one suiting up. Michael Douglas' Pym guides Paul Rudd's Scott Lang, and it's an interesting dynamic, something a little different. Since they already have this Avengers established, it made sense to go a different direction with Pym. Some Pym/Stark banter down the road will be amusing.

Q: How does this fit in with the other Marvel movies?

A: It references the Avengers, but other than a clumsy post-credits segment setting up another Marvel movie, it feels separate from them in a good way. In fact, Ant-Man tries to reach out to the Avengers in the narrative, but he meets Falcon. I love Falcon and am thrilled that he's a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or whatever, but he's a B-lister, and the Avengers portions of this movie make it feel like a second-tier movie.

And you know what?  I'm fine with that. There should be room for some of these solo movies with lesser-known heroes.

Q: Does this have a nice juicy villain for Ant-Man?

A: Sadly, no. There are some oily corporate types who are easy to root against, but while Corey Stoll  is skilled at playing an a-hole, he's not really a good super villain. Perhaps the idea was that Any-Man is sort of an anti-hero and that the other elements of the story would make up for the lack of a decent foe. In some respects, they do, but this is perhaps the movie's biggest weakness.

Q: How excited are you for the sequel?

A: The superhero movie docket is getting pretty full, but as long as the films are good, that's not my problem. "Ant-Man" is a solid movie, not one that makes me overly anxious for a follow-up, but one plenty good enough to make me want to see it when it does come out. I felt on some level we weren't supposed to like it because it was directed by Peyton Reed and not the original guy, the much hipper Edgar Wright, but Ant-Man delivers. Rudd and Douglas are charming, and their dynamic has a lot of potential that can be explored in the future. I'm less enthused about Evangeline Lilly's character, but perhaps the sequel will make her more interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

One of the dumbest attempts to hype a TV series in print

The "Entertainment Weekly" issue with the big "Walking Dead" section tried to boost "The 100," a CW show which I refuse to believe is as great as the magazine (and, I will admit, several prominent critics) indicate. I don't mind talking up the stories, the cast, the craft, or things like that, but this is not a blockbuster hit.

Still, in an apparent attempt to impress readers, the "catch up on The 100" piece includes this "proof" of how the show's popularity "skyrocketed":

According to Twitter, the season 3 bow on Jan. 21 (Rick's note: I like how EW is too cool to spell out January. It's not like IT'S limited to 140 characters) racked up roughly 10 times as many tweets as the series premiere and saw #THE100 trend worldwide.

Oh, well, that's that. I gotta get on board this unstoppable juggernaut! God forbid I get left out of the water cooler talk of a show that got its title trending worldwide on Twitter once for some   unspecified amount of time!

Any sentence beginning with "According to Twitter" should be suspect, but at least we could get some kind of actual numbers rather than some sketchy comparative figure. If the first episode generated a dozen tweets, than 120 would be 10 times that. Plus do you know how difficult it is to get something "trending worldwide"?

Well, I don't, either, but I've heard that it's not actually difficult at all. It's especially plausible when you get an event that would bring people interested in the topic together at one time...like, you know, a hyped series premiere.

It sounds like "The 100" is doing quite well by CW standards and is even drawing some modest critical attention. But let's not act like it's--to pick an example totally out of the blue--"The Walking Dead." If I were involved with the production of the series, I'd be overjoyed to get this kind of coverage, but I might be a little embarrassed by the use of Twitter as an important metric. I don't think advertisers are paying rates based on relative tweet totals or times trending worldwide.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bobby Ware is Missing (1955) from Warner Archive

NOTE: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!  I'M TALKING THE ACTUAL FINAL SHOT OF THE MOVIE! But you ain't missing much with the spoilers because, for reasons I will make clear, there is very little narrative tension in this movie.

Allied Artists' 1955 thriller "Bobby Ware Is Missing" is an odd one. It runs only 66 minutes, it puts children in jeopardy, but then it derives much of its narrative tension from what we know is a red herring. It depicts two young boys trapped on a high mountainside, but it doesn't really attempt to establish the height with gimmicky "looking down" camera shots. Well, as someone who is a little spooked by children in jeopardy and by heights, I didn't mind so much, but it makes for an offbeat picture.

We open with a construction site, where blasting, digging, excavating, and all the other various types of constructing are occurring. Bobby and his friend Mickey Goodwin are biking around and going places they shouldn't be, like all kids used to do. Ah, the good, old days, when you left your house in the morning and did God knows what until it got dark, maybe stopping back home for a sandwich around lunchtime.

And remember when there used to be giant dirt piles all over the place and tools and all kinds of questionable stuff lying around? Bobby and Mickey skip right past the rusty nails, broken glass bottles, and "men's magazines" surely scattered about and go right into the unsecured heavy machinery! These days there would be chain link fence, maybe a MOAT, around this type of site, or at least a video camera or two. The unfortunate youth of today have to get their danger and thrills from their game consoles...or in some places by drinking from the tap. Suffice to say I was appalled at what Bobby and Mickey were able to do at the beginning of this movie...and a little envious.

My jealousy evaporated when the two climbed up a little mountain (maybe it's more a hill, but that doesn't sound as exciting) and suddenly slipped down, landing on a small ridge. They can't climb up, and there's no way to get down. These two are TRAPPED! At first it's not so bad, but when night falls, it's cold and kind of spooky:

Note: Left unexplored in the entire 66 minutes is how the kids go to the bathroom on this ridge. Perhaps director Thomas Carr thought it best not to delve into that. I don't know much about Thomas Carr, but this strikes me as a reasonable judgment on his part.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Ware (Arthur Franz and Jean Gilles) are worried sick about their missing boy, and they start to get a little panicky. We soon meet Mickey's father Max (Walter), a single father who has had some issues raising his boy. Someone tossed a brick through the Wares' window, and the attached note claims the kids are being held for ransom. Business picks up as we get going with the star of the show, Neville Brand.

Brand is a world-class geologist the Wares and Max hire to analyze the brick to find clues to the kids' location. At this point, director Carr, through Brand's charismatic but geeky scientist, takes the viewer on an engrossing thrill ride through the high-stakes world of forensic mineralogy.

I'm kidding, of course, but, yes, some sick part of me really wishes that were true.

In fact, this point of the movie is where "Ware" (oh, I'm a wordsmith) squanders an opportunity. I think the most compelling aspect of the thin story is the internal disagreements among the 3 parents over how to handle this. Do they follow the lead and hand over the money? Do they fully cooperate with the authorities (Brand is in charge of the investigation)? There is some interesting debate, and I think if the film had another 10-15 minutes to explore these questions, plus Max's guilt over being an inattentive parent, we might really have something.

Instead, "Ware" shifts focus to a pursuit of the fake kidnapper. The problem is we know immediately the rock thrower has nothing to do with the boys' disappearance. Actually his identity isn't even much of a mystery; anyone paying attention to the credits and keeping track of how often people have been featured in the story to that point could make a pretty good guess. So the movie generates its thrills with a long car chase of a suspect the audience knows is a red herring. Again, I am not a huge fan of heights, not of kids in jeopardy, but I think this film could have benefited from a stronger attempt to leverage those factors.

Long story short (and this IS only 66 minutes, remember), Neville Brand and his men eventually track down the boys, but their rescue plan involves a precarious harness contraption someone tosses out of a hovering helicopter. Hopefully this comes across in the screencaps, but this rescue is brief but looks dangerous as hell, and it made me more uneasy than anything else in the flick:

However, Bobby and Mickey do survive to enjoy embraces with their fathers, and just as a reminder of who the real star of this is, we get a somewhat incongruous closing shot of Neville Brand looking...happy, I guess:

"Snakes...Why did it have to be snakes surrounding those kids?"

It's an odd, almost anticlimactic end to a fun but inconsequential thriller. "Bobby Ware Is Missing" is worth a rental or a watch on, say, TCM, but at 66 minutes and with no extras, this seems a bit of a steep purchase at Warner Archive's standard prices. I would have liked to have seen this as part of a double feature instead of a regular standalone. That said, more power to WA for cranking out even these smaller pictures on DVD.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Streaming Showcase: Amazon Prime

I got another free month earlier this year, so what the hey. I don't want to spend 100 bucks for a year of Prime, even with Amazon raising its free shipping threshold for peons minimum to 50 bucks, so you have to take what I say with that in mind. I realiaze there are tons of benefits beyond "just" the video, but for the purposes of this review, I am pretending Amazon Prime is an SVOD service that costs 8 bucks and change per month and not factoring in the shipping, the Kindle library, the free foot massages, and whatever else they bundle in with an annual subscription.

And when I look at it that way, Amazon Prime is just not a great service. It offers a lot of content, but it continues to make it difficult to isolate content you actually want to watch. I remember being frustrated during my previous free trial that it was so hard to browse for certain types of programming. I also disliked the jumbling of Prime content with material that was NOT included with membership but which required a separate rental fee.

Well, that aspect of Amazon Prime is now even worse. Amazon offers a bunch of add-on subscriptions to the likes of Showtime and Starz, which might make purchasing and billing more convenient for customers, but it makes the actual viewing experience much harder. When I subscribe to something like this and go to my main interfaces, I want to see content that I paid for, not content that I don't get, and Amazon throws in a lot of those extras into a confusing mess without giving you the option to strip all that crap out. If I DID subscribe to Starz through Amazon, that would be fine, but I don't need to see the Starz movies when I'm trying to navigate the already poor Prime pages.

I give Prime credit for not having commercials and for offering closed captioning on virtually everything, plus I experienced few if any troubles once something actually started playing. Unfortunately, the hassle of searching through the catalogue negates much of those technical strengths. I guess on one hand it's a "good" thing: It's so hard to find something on Prime that each time you log in, you're liable to be surprised by a new item you didn't know was there. That seems to me a terrible way to run a video on demand service, though. I'd like to see better watchlist functionality as well.

The acquired content isn't enough to make Prime an attractive alternative to something like Netflix just yet. There's no real unified strategy; much of the good stuff is non-exclusive, and the content that IS only on Prime doesn't have a coherent theme. It's just a bunch of shows. "The Good Wife," "The Americans," "Justified," "Downtown Abbey"...OK, a lot of people like those series, but can Amazon accumulate enough of these pieces to make some kind of quality whole? So far, it has not, but then again, this is the danger with my approach. I suspect most Prime subscribers aren't looking at the video as a standalone component like I am and are happy for what they get as long as they get just enough to remind them they like it.

The limited HBO content is a nice extra, but is less relevant now than when it first arrived. HBO Now is expensive, but when you can add it to your Roku and get instant access to just about everything HBO-related, the trickle of seasons licensed to Prime doesn't seem like such a big deal.

Unless something radical changes--and with Netflix's continued de-emphasis of catalog TV and movies, I won't be surprised if Amazon gets more aggressive about making broad library deals with major studios--Prime may live, as a video service, on the strength of its originals. Here's the part of the post in which I confess I didn't care for what I saw of "Transparent" on a previous free trial. I do acknowledge it is a critical favorite and prestigious tentpole for Prime going forward.

I did watch 3 different Prime originals during this trial and enjoyed them all. "Red Oaks" is a bizarre concoction, an homage to 80s comedies that often plays like an 80s comedy without the comedy, but I got hooked on it despite never understanding why. Paul Reiser and Richard Kind are gold in just about all their scenes, so I should point out there is always something funny on the show, but it's notable that they stand out so much on a show focusing on the youth who work at a 1980s country club.

"Catastrophe" is a pleasant surprise, a charming but never cloying romantic comedy about a couple who enjoy a one-night (more or less) stand but become linked when she becomes pregnant. Complicating matters: She lives in England, and he was only there for business. The cast is likable, the situations are relatable if the circumstances are extreme, and best of all, it's very funny!

Amazon's adaptation of the Phllip K. Dick novel "The Man in the High Castle" quickly became a must-watch for me. It shows a universe in which World War II ends differently, with Nazi Germany taking over the Eastern U.S., Imperial Japan seizing the West, and a tenuous "Neutral Zone" existing in the middle. The show is flawed and often focuses more on atmosphere and setting than on solid storytelling, but I love the atmosphere and setting. Based on the first season's finale, I'm very concerned that future seasons will go in a direction I don't prefer, but the point is I'm invested and want to see where it DOES go.

So like other SVOD services and, really, like many cable channels right now, Amazon Prime is trying to develop some standout hits that make people reluctant to step away. I hate the idea of paying 100 bucks for a year of anything like this, and even a month-to-month option won't grab me until Amazon improves its usability and boosts its content. Yet the originals I watched this time around were good enough to at least make me think about it.

Grade: C-

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Emails that don't really help me at all

We all get on a bunch of mailing lists--at least those of us too lazy to uncheck those boxes do--and some of what we get is useful, but some of it...not so much.

Last week I got a message from a certain major toy retailer titled "10 Ways to Make Your Spring Awesome." Surprise, surprise, all 10 involve buying really expensive things.

Awesome can be achieved by obtaining "Outdoor Essentials" such as swing sets, play houses, trampolines, bouncers, and pools. I don't doubt that those items do in fact contribute to the overall levels of awesome in one's spring, and I concede there are one or two items that don't require a co-signer (The link to "outdoor activities" shows some relatively basic sporting equipment), but I don't know how much awesome I can afford right now.

Can't blowing bubbles be awesome? How about bouncing a superball? Isn't jumping rope an awesome way to have a little springtime fun?

Later, a certain airline sent me one of its periodic "Hey, thanks for being in our club, but why don't you actually go fly somewhere?" emails. The title: "50% off your Bahamas vacay!"

Look, I haven't expressed any kind of interest in going to the Bahamas...until right now. That sounds pretty good! But I don't think I can drop everything and head to the Bahamas. At least, I can't book it for one of two windows by March 17.

And even if I could, I certainly wouldn't go there on a vacay.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Brooks on Books: You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Doggett

I had wanted to read this book, which chronicles the Beatles after the breakup, ever since it came out. A friend of mine loaned it to me recently, and I now want to thank him in public in this post. Thanks, friend.

Thanks for RUINING THE BEATLES for me!

I'm joking, but, man, "You Never Give Me Your Money" is a depressing read for Beatles fans (a subset that shouldn't even be a subset; we're all Beatles fans, right?) and a sad reminder of all the stuff I had heard over the years but kind of tried to forget. In fact, it adds more rich detail to the story of how the greatest band the world has ever known spent its last decade-plus as individuals on the planet together suing and sniping at each other.

Doggett is such a skilled writer, though, that the tale is captivating even if on some level you don't particularly want to know it. He begins with the tragedy of John Lennon's assassination, hooking you right away before taking you back to the beginning of the end (One of the disheartening aspects of the Beatles' breakup, by the way, is that it started years before they actually broke up).

It takes a talented author to summarize legal squabbles and other pettiness into a compelling narrative, and Doggett does while maintain an appropriate objective distance. Oh, he gets in plenty of wry comments that essentially call out the players on various BS, but he stops well short of interjecting the, "Oh, come on, just grow up," comments you want to make when reading the book. It makes me eager to read more of Doggett's work.

I don't know if I'm as eager to see "Let It Be" again as I was before I read this, though. Reading about the disintegration of the Beatles is enough of a bummer without seeing--Oh, who am I kidding, I want the long-shelved documentary to get an official video release, and I will buy it when it does. It's just that "You Never Give Me" provides so many telling points that reinforce the darker aspects of the band's history.

I knew John was a drug-abusing hypocrite, but, wow, does he come off poorly here. I knew Paul McCartney could be controlling, but there are a few specific instances in this narrative that you really see how he cut off his nose to spite his face. I still give him credit for being the one who tried to keep the band together (if on his terms) and who warned the others about would-be financial savior Allen Klein.

A recent book about Klein promises to offer a fuller picture, and I think I'd like to see that. As the tangled affairs of Apple become even more so during the 1970s, the shady businessman naturally looms large in this story. The focus remains on the "lads," though. And speaking of them...

George Harrison comes off worse than the others to me only because while I knew a lot of the John and Paul stuff, the epic a-holery of George has been so whitewashed over the years that much of it feels "fresh," if that word can apply to tales of self-absorption and adultery. There are multiple sides to everything, mind you, but it strikes me that George held bigger grudges against Paul even though John was arguably the more personally cruel and the more stifling music-wise. Perhaps the hurt was stronger for the sensitive Harrison coming from the one he knew longer.

As for Ringo, he comes off as a normal enough bloke (Doggett refers to him as "Richard Starkey" throughout the book) who just wants everyone to get along and is willing to go along to make that happen. The frequent references to his boorish behavior while addicted to alcohol aren't accompanied by a lot of specifics, and as a result, Lennon's heroin use is more vivid and it's easy to forget Ringo was capable of being a real ass, too.

I don't think I need to say much about Yoko. "You Never Give Me" makes clear that she is not the sole force behind the destruction of the band, but it also depicts her as a frequent obstacle to any hope of reconciliation. Yes, Lennon was as much responsible for Ono being in the group's sessions as she--actually, more so--and he deserves the blame for that, but Doggett presents circumstantial evidence of the negative influence she had on his life and hints that she may have directly thwarted several efforts of him to get together and record music with at least one of the other ex-Beatles in the 1970s. Suffice to say this is in no way a revisionist take on Yoko, but I think it's a fair look at her influence and her undeniable role in the saga.

Doggett had only brief encounters with the Beatles themselves, and apparently they weren't directly related to this particular book, but he says the "research" encompassed some 40 years as a fan and writer, and his research is impressive. In addition to a multitude of secondary sources, Doggett draws from interviews he conducted with a variety of key figures, including Ono, George Martin, the late Neil Aspinall, and many others. He shows good judgment in reporting rumor as such and only when it's relevant to the text, and he presents a credible view of all the various legal machinations that occurred.

One thing that may raise the eyebrows of many hardcore Beatlemaniacs is the dismissive attitude Doggett has about much of the guys' solo output. This isn't a critical history of the solo Beatles music careers, but that work is an essential part of the post-band journey, and it's interesting how down he is on much of it. McCartney, in particular, gets a certain amount of negativity toward his solo music that is somewhat surprising given his commercial success.

In the end, the love you make is equal to the love you take. Sorry, couldn't help myself. I was going to say that in the end, we have the music. After reading this disturbing but addictive account of the Beatles after they stopped being the Beatles, I wondered how the hell the surviving three managed to put together the Anthology (and even that wasn't a slam dunk), but I also went back to the tunes. Ultimately, as Doggett rightly emphasizes, it's the work that endures. "Their collective genius created something that not even money could destroy," he writes, even though at some points this great book makes it seem touch and go.

Friday, March 4, 2016

5 Streaming Video on Demand Offerings I'd Like to See in 2016: Cartoons--LOTS of cartoons

Next up in my series of posts explaining my ideas for new SVOD offerings: Cartoon Time. Or Toon Fiesta. Or Animated World. Or Drawring-a-palooza. Whatever. I just want a decent service devoted to classic cartoons.

You can find a lot of cartoons on Netflix, Hulu, etc., but most of them are relatively modern television shows. Finding the old theatrical classics is a different story unless they are public domain (or they are Disney, some of which are on Netflix). Heck, finding the old theatrical classics anywhere is becoming more difficult. Even Boomerang, which is a clear afterthought in the Warner family, has abandoned most of the old-school animation.

Speaking of the Warner family, the fact that it already HAS a niche SVOD service, Warner Archive Instant, that it has virtually abandoned doesn't inspire one with confidence that it will make another one, let alone one worth a subscription. But think about it: With the animation libraries scattered among the big companies, Warner Brothers is the one entity that controls enough product to make an attractive channel.

How much would you pay for access to uncut and uncensored (and even unrestored, but that would be fine as long as they were there) Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies, Tom and Jerry, Popeye, Tex Avery, and more? Then you throw in the television properties Warner controls: Scooby Doo, Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Super Friends...

There may be existing deals that would preclude some of these libraries showing up on Cartoon Kingdom, but you'd think that Warner could put together a great service quickly without licensing any outside content. If it got ambitious, though, it's not like anyone's doing a whole lot with Woody Woodpecker, Terrytoons...or anything else.

Back when Warner Archive Instant still added new content, it would rotate in stuff like "Marine Boy" or the Filmation "Aquaman" toons. Is it too much to ask that the company at least put some effort into a cartoon-only channel? Yeah, it probably is. But, oh, what a streaming service it COULD put together.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Two recent songs really grind my gears

1) "Honey I'm Good" by Andy Grammer: This guy is SOOOO nice and SUUUUCH a good man that he promises not just to stay true, but to stay true-ooh-ooh-ooh-OOH-ooh-ooh. He says, "Honey, I'm good," meaning he's done drinking. If he shas another, he might not leave alone, and he's got someone at home. But he's NOT gonna have another.

Well, good for you, pal. here's my question, Mr. Nice Guy: What the hell are you doing drinking with some strange woman while your sweetheart is at home? If you were really committed to her, you wouldn't be in this spot in the first place!

If I am misreading this song and it is actually an ironic declaration from a man who fully intends to cheat on his significant other, than I apologize. That's the only way the scenario makes sense.

2) "One Call Away" by Charlie Puth: This has the look of another wolf in sheep's clothing. The guy sounds all sensitive, telling someone he's just one call away from saving the day. He wants to be your friend. He wants love. What could be wrong with that?

Well, why does he drag Superman into it? Puth repeatedly declares, "Superman's got nothing on me." Uh. I'm calling BS on this. Denzel Washington was able to proclaim, King Kong  ain;t got nothing on me," in "Training Day," but that was Denzel, not some "sensitive" singer type.

And since when does being one call away best the Man of Steel? You don't even have to call HIM. He just shows up and saves you! Sure, Jimmy Olsen has that signal watch, but we all know Superman only gave him that to get him off his back every now and then. Most of the rest of the world doesn't have to call, text, or email Superman. It just has to get in trouble, and guess who shows up? Not Charlie Puth. Superman.

I'm not comfortable with a world in which guys can get away with bragging about being better than Superman. First they conceive a movie that puts Batman on equal (if not greater) footing with the Kryptonian, and now this. I wouldn't blame Supes if he abandoned us all for some planet where he doesn't have to sit through cloying songs from men who think they're better than everyone else.