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Anime

Animation Legend Isao Takahata, Co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Dies at 82 (nbcnews.com) 27

Isao Takahata, co-founder of the prestigious Japanese animator Studio Ghibli, which stuck to a hand-drawn "manga" look in the face of digital filmmaking, has died. He was 82. From a report: Takahata started Ghibli with Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, hoping to create Japan's Disney. He directed "Grave of the Fireflies," a tragic tale about wartime childhood, and produced some of the studio's films, including Miyazaki's 1984 "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," which tells the horror of environmental disaster through a story about a princess. Takahata died Thursday of lung cancer at a Tokyo hospital, the studio said in a statement Friday.

He was fully aware of how the floating sumie-brush sketches of faint pastel in his works stood as a stylistic challenge to Hollywood's computer-graphics cartoons. In a 2015 interview with The Associated Press, Takahata talked about how Edo-era woodblock-print artists like Hokusai had the understanding of Western-style perspective and the use of light, but they purposely chose to depict reality with lines, and in a flat way, with minimal shading.
"Pom Poko", a movie released in 1994, is often considered the best work of Takahata. The New York Times described it as, "a comic allegory about battling packs of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) joining forces to fight human real estate developers. It's earthy and rollicking in a way that his co-founder's films aren't." In an interview with Wired in 2015, when Takahata was asked what he felt about people regarding him as the heart of Studio Ghibli. "Now you've both finished your final films, what are your feelings on Ghibli's legacy and reputation?, the interviewer asked. Takahata said, "I'm not sure I can respond in any meaningful way. What Hayao Miyazaki has built up is the greatest contribution. The existence of that thick trunk has allowed leaves to unfurl and flowers to bloom to become the fruitful tree that is Studio Ghibli."

Further reading: Isao Takahata's stark world of reality (The Japan Times).
Movies

Stan Lee's Stolen Blood Was Used To Sign Marvel Comic Books (tmz.com) 134

ISoldat53 writes: Someone stole a sample of Stan Lee's blood and stamped comic books with it to increase their value. TMZ reports: "We've learned several 'Black Panther' comic books are currently available at the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. store on the Las Vegas Strip. Each edition comes with a certificate of authentication that details the item as a 'Hand-Stamped Signature of STAN LEE using Stan Lee's Solvent DNA Ink.' Stan's friend and partner Keya Morgan discovered the 95-year-old's blood was allegedly stolen back in October after a former business associate presented Lee's nurse with fake docs that authorized that a sample be drawn. Our sources say the nurse pulled enough blood from Stan for him to feel lightheaded and dizzy. We're told the 'Black Panther' comic with Stan's Hancock in blue is selling for $250. The one in gold is twice that at $500. Stan's legal team is currently weighing its options to go after the former business associate who allegedly lifted Lee's blood." Evan Michailidis, a legal rep for the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. tells TMZ, "We're a retail store which purchased product from Hands of Respect LLC and DLK Brand Consulting LLC that appeared certified and obtained with authorization. The books were removed from our shelves immediately."
Movies

The 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" 206

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the original release of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," a seminal film in motion picture history and one that has awed millions over the years. Kubrick's title has often been credited with paving the way for science-fiction films that took a realistic approach to depicting the future. Even as "2001" has grown to become one of the most iconic movies of all time, the reception it received when it originally premiered wasn't good. An excerpt: The film's previews were an unmitigated disaster. Its story line encompassed an exceptional temporal sweep, starting with the initial contact between pre-human ape-men and an omnipotent alien civilization and then vaulting forward to later encounters between Homo sapiens and the elusive aliens, represented throughout by the film's iconic metallic-black monolith. Although featuring visual effects of unprecedented realism and power, Kubrick's panoramic journey into space and time made few concessions to viewer understanding. The film was essentially a nonverbal experience. Its first words came only a good half-hour in.

Audience walkouts numbered well over 200 at the New York premiere on April 3, 1968, and the next day's reviews were almost uniformly negative. Writing in the Village Voice, Andrew Sarris called the movie "a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick's inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view." And yet that afternoon, a long line -- comprised predominantly of younger people -- extended down Broadway, awaiting the first matinee.
The Cannes Film Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of "2001: A Space Odyssey" with the world premiere of an unrestored 70mm print, introduced by Christopher Nolan. The event is set for May 12 as part of the Cannes Classics program. The screening will also be attended by members of Kubrick's family, including his daughter Katharina Kubrick and his longtime producing partner and brother-in-law Jan Harlan.

Further reading: Why 2001: A Space Odyssey's mystery endures, 50 years on (CNET); 50 years of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- how Kubrick's sci-fi 'changed the very form of cinema' (The Guardian); The story of a voice: HAL in '2001' wasn't always so eerily calm (The New York Times); and The most intriguing theories about "2001: A Space Odyssey" (io9); and Behind the scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history (Vanity Fair).
Movies

Netflix Banned From Competing At Cannes Film Festival Due To Lack of Theatrical Releases (theverge.com) 120

Netflix has been banned from competing in the Cannes Film Festival, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. "Theirry Fremaux, the head of Cannes, told THR last week the ban is because Netflix refuses to release its films in theaters, choosing instead to debut them on its streaming service and, in some rare cases, do day-and-date releases so the film can be seen both online and off," reports The Verge. From the report: In the case of Bong Joon-ho's Okja and Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories -- films that were entered into last year's Cannes to widespread protest from French filmmakers -- Netflix was unable to secure last-minute permits for one-week theatrical releases due to French media regulations. "Last year, when we selected these two films, I thought I could convince Netflix to release them in cinemas. I was presumptuous, they refused," Fremaux told THR. "The Netflix people loved the red carpet and would like to be present with other films. But they understand that the intransigence of their own model is now the opposite of ours." Starting with this year's Cannes, which takes place in May, films screened in competition will need to have a French theatrical release. Netflix is still allowed to show films at Cannes, Fremaux added, but its films will not be eligible for the prestigious Palme d'Or.
Businesses

MoviePass' Low Subscription Price Just Got Lower (hollywoodreporter.com) 96

In a move to lure new subscribers, MoviePass has dropped the price of its monthly subscription service from about $10 per month to just under $7. From a report: The company said for $6.95 per month, new subscribers will get one movie ticket per day, a minor catch being that users must pay for a year up-front. There is also a one-time $6.55 processing fee. It's the umpteenth time that MoviePass has changed its price since launching six years ago at $40 per month (before raising it to $50), most significantly eight months ago when it was cut to just $9.95. The change had the desired effect, as subscribers swelled from 20,000 then to nearly 3 million today. Still, MoviePass is not without its critics, as some theater chains -- most notably AMC -- have criticized the service for allegedly cheapening the moviegoing experience. Also, industry executives worry that MoviePass cannot survive (it pays mostly full price for the movie tickets its subscribers use) and wonder if users that are left in the lurch when it folds will ever want to pay $9 (the average price in the U.S.) per ticket again.
Youtube

YouTube To Follow Amazon By Screening Its Movies Inside Theaters (engadget.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: Following YouTube's announcement last month that it intends to spend "hundreds of millions" on original content for Red, it's just unveiled plans for a YouTube-made movie that'll also be released in theaters. And unlike its previous effort, 2016's widely-regarded flop Lazer Team, this project has a serious name attached to it: Susan Sarandon. The film, Vulture Club, is already in post-production. It stars Oscar-winning Susan Sarandon as an emergency room nurse whose son has been kidnapped by terrorists, and after being abandoned by the government, finds help in the unlikeliest of places. The thriller also stars Edie Falco of The Sopranos and Matt Bomer of Magic Mike, and is directed by Iranian-American Maryam Keshavarz, of Circumstance fame. Despite being slated for theatrical release, details on YouTube's plans to actually get the movie into theaters are scarce.
Technology

Netflix's Secrets to Success: Six Cell Towers, Dubbing and More (variety.com) 78

Variety gets access to the people at Netflix who take care of the tech: Netflix has its own cell towers. Netflix wants to test its app running on mobile devices under a variety of conditions available around the world, so the company decided to bring the operating equipment of six cell towers to its Los Gatos offices. "Minus the towers," quipped Scott Ryder, the company's director of mobile streaming. The cell tower equipment is housed in the company's mobile device lab, where they are joined by a number of cabinets that look like fancy Netflix-themed fridges, but in reality are Faraday cage-like boxes to suppress any outside interference, and also make sure that those experimental cell towers don't mess up phone reception on the rest of the campus. Each of these boxes can house dozens of devices, and emulate certain mobile or Wi-Fi conditions. "We can make a box look like India, we can make a box look like the Netherlands," Ryder said. Altogether, Netflix runs over 125,000 tests in its mobile lab every single day.[...]

Netflix just re-encoded its entire catalog, again. To optimize videos for mobile viewing, Netflix recently re-encoded its entire catalog on a per-scene basis. "We segment the videos into shots, we analyze the video per shot," said the company's director of video algorithms Anne Aaron. Now, an action scene in a show may stream at a higher bit rate than a scene featuring a slow monologue -- and users with limited bandwidth are set to save a lot of data. A few years back, 4 GB of mobile data would get you just about 10 hours of Netflix video, said Aaron. Now, members can watch up to 26 hours while consuming the same amount of data. Netflix previously re-encoded its entire catalog on a per-title basis, which already allowed it to stream animated shows at much lower bitrates than action movies with a lot of visual complexity. The next step for the company will be to adopt AV1, an advanced video codec developed by an alliance of companies that also includes Apple, Amazon, and Google. Aaron said Netflix could start streaming in AV1 before the end of this year, with Chrome browsers likely being first in line to receive AV1 streams.

Privacy

MoviePass Wants To Gather a Whole Lot of Data About Its Users (fortune.com) 162

An anonymous reader writes: MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe thinks his service's rapid growth will continue, projecting earlier this month that MoviePass will have 5 million subscribers by the end of 2018, and account for around 20% of all movie ticket purchases. But some of those future subscribers might be concerned about his company's tactics, which Lowe recently said includes tracking users' location before and after a trip to the movies. Lowe's comments, originally reported by Media Play News, were made at the Entertainment Finance Forum on March 2 in Hollywood. They came during a panel titled "Data is the New Oil: How Will MoviePass Monetize It?" Lowe's answer to that question, in part, was that "our bigger vision is to build a night at the movies," including by guiding users to a meal before or after seeing a film.

Lowe said that was possible because "we get an enormous amount of information. Since we mail you the card, we know your home address . . . we know the makeup of that household, the kids, the age groups, the income. It's all based on where you live. It's not that we ask that. You can extrapolate that. "Then," Lowe continued, "Because you are being tracked in your GPS by the phone . . . we watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards, and so we know the movies you watch. We know all about you. We don't sell that data. What we do is we use that data to market film."

Books

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Apps and Online Services You Use To Discover, Track and Evaluate Movies, TV Shows, Music and Books? 84

Earlier this week, news blog Engadget had a post in which the author outlined some of the apps that could help people keep track of TV shows, books, and music habits. A reader, who submitted the story, said the list was quite underwhelming. Curious to hear how Slashdot readers tackle these things.
Sci-Fi

The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy Returns With the Original Cast (arstechnica.com) 84

Jonathan M. Gitlin reports via Ars Technica: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy deserves a special place in the geek pantheon. It's the story of hapless BBC radio editor Arthur Dent, his best friend Ford Prefect, and the adventures that result when Prefect saves Dent when the Earth is unexpectedly destroyed to make way for a galactic bypass. Written by the late, great Douglas Adams, THGTTG first appeared as a radio series in the UK back in 1978. On Thursday -- exactly 40 years to the day from that first broadcast -- it made its return home with the start of Hexagonal Phase, a radio dramatization of the sixth and final book of an increasingly misnamed trilogy.

Although Adams died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2001, the universe he gave birth to lived on. Beginning in 2004, the original radio cast was reunited to dramatize the third, fourth, and fifth books. In 2005, a film adaptation was released, and then in 2009 came a final novel in the "trilogy," And Another Thing..., written by the novelist Eoin Colfer. It's this story that the BBC is now dramatizing, again using many of the original cast, along with newcomers like Jim Broadbent, Lenny Henry, and Stephen Hawking. Yes, that Stephen Hawking.

Star Wars Prequels

'Iron Man' Director Jon Favreau Will Write And Produce a Live-Action 'Star Wars' TV Series For Disney's New Streaming Service (cnet.com) 90

From a report: Jon Favreau is going from "Avengers" blockbusters to a galaxy far, far away. The director, actor, producer and writer will take on a Star Wars starring role by helming a series destined for Disney's new streaming video service. While Favreau is multi-talented, his focus will be on producing and writing the unnamed show. Favreau is a bonafide Star Wars fan who voiced a character in the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and also has appearance in the upcoming "Solo: A Star Wars Story."In a statement, Favreau said, "If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn't have believed you. I can't wait to embark upon this exciting adventure."
Businesses

Uber Booked Half the Theater For the Opening Night of a Play Inspired By the Scandals that Took Down Former CEO Travis Kalanick (businessinsider.com) 33

Uber booked more than half of the seats available for the London premiere of "Brilliant Jerks," a satirical play inspired by the car-ride startup's numerous scandals, and featuring a character similar to former CEO Travis Kalanick. From a report: The company purchased 50 of 90 available seats for the show's opening night at London's Vault theater, as originally reported by the Financial Times. The Financial Times reports that the play was inspired in part by the now-infamous blog post by Susan J. Fowler on Uber's toxic and sexist work culture, setting off a chain of events that ultimately led Kalanick to resign as chief executive of the company he cofounded. According to the Vault's website, "Brilliant Jerks tells the story of three people -- a driver, a coder, and a CEO -- working for one tech monolith, but living worlds apart."
Movies

MoviePass CEO Proudly Says App Tracks Your Location Before, After Movies (techcrunch.com) 166

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told an audience at a Hollywood event last Friday that the app tracks moviegoers' locations before and after each show they watch. "We get an enormous amount of information," Lowe said. "We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards." His talk at the Entertainment Finance Forum was entitled "Data is the New Oil: How will MoviePass Monetize It?" TechCrunch reports: It's no secret that MoviePass is planning on making hay out of the data collected through its service. But what I imagined, and what I think most people imagined, was that it would be interesting next-generation data about ticket sales, movie browsing, A/B testing on promotions in the app and so on. I didn't imagine that the app would be tracking your location before you even left your home, and then follow you while you drive back or head out for a drink afterwards. Did you? It sure isn't in the company's privacy policy, which in relation to location tracking discloses only a "single request" when selecting a theater, which will "only be used as a means to develop, improve, and personalize the service." Which part of development requires them to track you before and after you see the movie? A MoviePass representative said in a statement to TechCrunch: "We are exploring utilizing location-based marketing as a way to help enhance the overall experience by creating more opportunities for our subscribers to enjoy all the various elements of a good movie night. We will not be selling the data that we gather. Rather, we will use it to better inform how to market potential customer benefits including discounts on transportation, coupons for nearby restaurants, and other similar opportunities."
Movies

The Oscar-Winning Special Effects of Blade Runner 2049 (bbc.com) 107

On Sunday, 'Blade Runner 2049' won the Oscar for the movie with the best visual effects. BBC spoke to Richard Hoover, the visual effects supervisor at Framestore which was one of the companies responsible for the movie's special effects.

Further reading: How 'Blade Runner 2049' VFX Supervisor John Nelson Brought Rachael & Pic's Holograms To Life (Deadline); Behind the breathtaking visual effects of 'Blade Runner 2049' (Digital Trends); How Blade Runner 2049's VFX team made K's hologram girlfriend (Wired).
Businesses

MPAA Wants Filmmakers To Pay Licenses, Not Rip Blu-rays (torrentfreak.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: Late last year several filmmaker groups asked the US Copyright Office to lift some of the current DMCA circumvention restrictions, so they can rip and use clips from Blu-rays and other videos without repercussions. In the US, people risk bypassing DMCA's anti-circumvention when they rip a DVD or Blu-ray disc. (There are some exemptions, such as educational and other types of fair use, but the line between legal and illegal is not always clear, some argue.) Not everyone agrees with this assessment though. A group of "joint creators and copyright owners" which includes Hollywood's MPAA, the RIAA, and ESA don't think this is a good idea and point out that filmmakers have plenty of other options. The MPAA and the other groups point out that the exemption could be used by filmmakers to avoid paying licensing fees, which can be quite expensive.
Star Wars Prequels

How a Fight Over Star Wars Download Codes Could Reshape Copyright Law (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A federal judge in California has rejected Disney's effort to stop Redbox from reselling download codes of popular Disney titles like Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, and the latest Star Wars movies. Judge Dean Pregerson's Tuesday ruling invoked the little-used doctrine of copyright misuse, which holds that a copyright holder loses the right to enforce a copyright if the copyright is being abused. Pregerson faulted Disney for tying digital download codes to physical ownership of discs, a practice that he argued ran afoul of copyright's first sale doctrine, which guarantees customers the right to resell used DVDs.

If the ruling were upheld on appeal, it would have sweeping implications. It could potentially force Hollywood studios to stop bundling digital download codes with physical DVDs and force video game companies to rethink their own practices. But James Grimmelmann, a copyright scholar at Cornell Law School, is skeptical that the ruling will survive an inevitable appeal from Disney. "I don't see this one sticking," Grimmelmann told Ars. Copyright misuse has such sweeping legal implications that an appeals court will be reluctant to apply it to a common movie industry practice.

Iphone

Soderbergh's Thriller Shot on iPhone Premieres in Berlin (reuters.com) 62

Director Steven Soderbergh said this week he so enjoyed making his psychological thriller "Unsane" on an iPhone, he would find it hard to go back to conventional filmmaking. From a report: "Unsane", which premieres at the Berlin film festival, was shot over just two weeks - way shorter than the months a movie usually takes. It tells the story of Sawyer Valentini, who moves to a new city to escape her stalker David but finds herself admitted to a mental health institution where he works.
Government

President Trump: 'We Have To Do Something' About Violent Video Games, Movies (arstechnica.com) 866

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a White House meeting held with lawmakers on the theme of school safety, President Donald Trump offered both a direct and vague call to action against violence in media by calling out video games and movies. "We have to do something about what [kids are] seeing and how they're seeing it," Trump said during the meeting. "And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is shaping more and more people's thoughts." Trump followed this statement by referencing "movies [that] come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else." He made a suggestion for keeping children from watching violent films: "Maybe they have to put a rating system for that." The MPAA's ratings board began adding specific disclaimers about sexual, drug, and violent content in all rated films in the year 2000, which can be found in small text in every MPAA rating box.
Businesses

Disney Loses in Redbox Copyright Row (bbc.com) 164

Disney has lost a bid to stop movie rental company Redbox from reselling download codes for its films. From a report: Redbox bought Disney movies on DVD to offer for rental in its kiosks. The DVDs were often bundled with a code to download a copy of the film. Disney requested an injunction to stop the practice, saying that Redbox had no business arrangement with it. A California federal judge accused Disney of "copyright misuse." Redbox rents and sells movies via tens of thousands of automated kiosks that dispense DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Movies

Flixster Video Shuts Down 33

After being purchased by Fandango in 2016, Flixster Video is officially shutting down. The site has been sending users regular emails over the past several months about the shutdown, reports Android Police. Now, the site is no longer operational, and only points people to its mobile app, which can still be used for getting movie reviews and tickets. The Verge reports: Flixster first announced it was closing in 2016, after being acquired by Fandango along with subsidiary Rotten Tomatoes. That year, Fandango also bought video streaming service M-Go, later rebranding it under FandangoNow. Flixster Video, which let people access their UltraViolet movie collection, was not a part of that deal. The shutdown began with the service telling customers it would no longer be able to redeem digital codes on the site for video playback. Over the past few months, emails have been sent out encouraging people to migrate their Flixster accounts to Vudu and Movies Anywhere in order to make sure nothing was lost. The company says it's not too late for users to do so.

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