Why Netflix Will Change Everything

It’s happened. Netflix has finally launched Down Under, to much fanfare and scrutinisation.

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It’s the beginning of a new era in Australian home entertainment, as people around the nation bump up their download limits, and prep their couch cushions and eyeballs for the onslaught of top-notch television and movies.

It’s now been a week since the streaming service hit our various tablet, computer and television screens, and as an early adopter, I can already feel the change it’s had.

People like myself who used to hire movies frequently have lately been struggling, as one by one, all the local video shops have begun shutting up shop. Lately, iTunes and GooglePlay were the only options, but if you’re paying $5.99 for every new release and $3.99 for any weekly, it can quickly add up. There’s no 5 weeklies for $10 deals anymore.

watchnowBut with Netflix, and other streaming services such as Nine and Fairfax Media’s Stan and Seven and Foxtel’s Presto, basically for the price of what it used to cost to hire a single new release, you can now get an entire library of movies and TV shows. To put it into perspective, I bought the first nine episodes of Orange is the New Black Season (OITNB) 2, with each priced at $2.99, which in itself is already more than I am now paying to have both seasons, as well as the wealth of other content. But also frustratingly, despite the fact the entire season of OITNB was available in the US, I then had to wait week by week, until SBS had broadcast the show, to be able to watch another new episode.

Aussies won't be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Aussies won’t be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Thankfully, the arrival of Netflix heralds a new era when Australian’s aren’t forced to wait months longer than US audiences to gain access to series.

Sure, a lot of people have been whining about the disparity between the selection on Australian Netflix, which carries only 1,116 titles compared to the US version with 8,499. But there’s promises the Aussie figure will grow and really, do you think Netflix was going to lay all the cards on the table at the launch? They obviously have a game plan, to convince all the people down the track who don’t have the service to sign up.

I found it interesting and a bit naive of some financial experts to say Netflix and other streaming services are a waste of money – that there’s not enough original content and Australian users will max out their data limits.

HouseofCardsThe Australian consumer is not an idiot. Anyone that is thinking of signing up to a streaming service is surely going to look around and see which ones offer the shows or movies they like. Presto has Louie, Wentworth, Sons of Anarchy and Modern Family, while Stan boasts shows such as Transparent, Community and Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The beauty of streaming services is that you can switch between them every couple of months if you don’t need a lock-in contract. Certain services also offer deals with internet service providers and Stan, Foxtel Play and Netflix are giving you the option of a free trial to see if it suits you.

And frankly, what are our other options? If I want to see House of Cards Season 3 and don’t want to download it, what cheaper alternative is there.

While I doubt this will completely curb Australians’ seemingly insatiable appetite for downloading, I do think it will quench some of that thirst, because with streaming services, comes choice. We have a mass of content to choose from now and we can get it at the same time as the US, for a similar price.

That’s right, Australians might finally fork out some of their cash for content, isn’t of heading to their favourite bit-torrent website.

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Where an issue will arise is when it comes to Game of Thrones, which will screen on Foxtel – and not on their streaming service. Most Australians don’t want to pay $25 a month to see a single show – even if Foxtel is trying to ease that harsh truth by promoting all the other stuff you get with a subscription. The problem is that consumers may not want 12 different channels. They want a single show and they want to watch it when they want, for a reasonable price. I believe that is where Foxtel is going to lose customers. If Foxtel were offering it on a streaming service, I would feel differently. For me, it means making the effort of going to the home of a friend or family member who have Foxtel, but I can guarantee others will not.

 

 

8 Book Adaptations To Look Forward To

As the money-making machine that is Hollywood scrounges around for its next big blockbuster, it’s no wonder the studios turn their hopeful eyes to the pages of books or comics.

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The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, the Marvel movies – some of the biggest franchises in history have been adaptations. They bring with them hordes of devoted fans ready to see how their heroes shape up on the big screen. On top of that, sometimes buying the rights of a book can create enough excitement that sales of that go up, which in turn boosts a film’s hype, until something that was meant to be a small, indie flick (such as Twilight), turns into an enormous financial success.

Twilight

Sometimes the film adaptations can even take the basis of a book and turn it into something far more remarkable. Silver Linings Playbook is a prime example of this – it fleshed out characters and twisted the story into a clever romantic comedy about mental illness. Then you have something like American Sniper, which stirred so much debate that it would seem most of the US saw it, with the adaptation of Chris Kyle’s book raking in US$344 million in the States alone.

Now I’m not going to suggest you read Fifty Shades of Grey, Insurgent, or another drippy Nicholas Sparks novel. I’m not going to recommend any of these books that I struggled to read myself, just because they have been made into movies.

But here are eight upcoming adaptation of books that I think look particularly intriguing. FYI Mockingjay – Part Two is a given, hence why it’s not on the list.

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Child 44 by tom rob smith

Tom Hardy often chooses complex character roles and it looks like his part in this adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s acclaimed thriller is no exception. Set in Soviet Russia, Hardy plays disgraced MGB Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders. Gary Oldman and Noomi Rapace also star, while Daniel Espinose (who helmed Safe House and Easy Money) is in the director’s chair. It’s the first novel in a trilogy, so if it does well, don’t be surprised to hear of more in the pipeline.

 

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The Jungle Book by rudyard kipling

The beloved classic, which Disney turned into a catchy animated romp in 1967 is getting a live-action makeover (with CGI animals) – something which the Mouse House seems to be doing with all its iconic flicks. This one is being directed by Jon Favreau, aka the guy who directed Iron Man and really helped get that little thing called the Marvel universe off the ground. With Scarlett Johansson providing her husky tones to the slithery serpent Kaa, the loveable Bill Murray voicing the loveable Baloo and Christopher Walken monkeying around as King Louie, on paper it’s sounding pretty spectacular.

 

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The Martian by Andy Weir

Did you like Gravity? Well, this could be the next big survival-driven space flick, with Matt Damon starring as an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars, after his crew believe he dies in a dust storm. Directed by the man who made space claustrophobic way back in 1979 with Alien – Ridley Scott – it also boasts a jaw-dropping cast. Aside from Damon, there’s Jessica Chastain (fresh off that other high-concept space movie Interstellar),Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Donald Glover and Sean Bean. History would tell us the last cast-members’ character won’t be around long, but you never know.

 

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frankenstein (aka Victor Frankenstein) by mary shelley

James McAvoy might star as the titular character, but in this twist on the classic horror novel, the story focuses on his young assistant Igor, played by Daniel Radcliffe. Told through his perspective, it focuses on Igor’s dark backstory, his friendship with medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein and, of course, how they created the ‘monster’ Frankenstein. It’s a different take to what we’ve seen – let’s just hope it’s better executed than last year’s dismal, I, Frankenstein.

 

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In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel philbrick

Based on a true story, Aussie Chris Hemsworth, Ben Whishaw and Cillian Murphy star in this adaptation of the award-winning nonfiction book about an eighty-foot sperm whale which attacked the whaleship Essex and left its crew stranded at sea with limited supplies. If it sounds familiar, it probably is – it was the incident that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  Hemsworth re-teams with his Rush director Ron Howard to bring it to life and with the release date recently being pushed back to December – aka near awards season – it could mean the studio expects big things from this ocean epic.

 

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The Price of Salt (aka carol) by patricia highsmith

Patricia Highsmith’s novels have proved something of a goldmine for filmmakers, although the results have been largely hit and miss. There is, of course, Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) and The Talented Mr Ripley on the high end of the scale, while last year Two Faces of January took an ambitious stab at the material, but was a bit undercooked. This adaptation of Highsmith’s 1952 novel stars Aussie Cate Blanchett as a suburban housewife who has a love affair with a young woman (played by Rooney Mara) who’s stuck in a department store job she hates. Directed by Todd Haynes, who helmed Far From Heaven and Safe, this is ticking all the boxes for a compelling drama so far.

 

truth

Truth and Duty (aka truth) by mary mapes

Cate Blanchett is certainly keeping busy, with this political drama also in the works. Filmed in Sydney last year, it stars Blanchett as former CBS television producer Mary Mapes, who penned her memoir after she and news anchor Dan Rather (played by Robert Redford) were fired for reporting that George W. Bush evaded serving in the Vietnam War. The film takes place during Rather’s final days at the network, in the lead-up to him broadcasting the damaging report. It’s the directorial debut for James Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay and penned movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man and White House Down. With a strong cast (also including Elisabeth Moss and Topher Grace) and intriguing story, this definitely shows a lot of potential.

 

charlize-theron-dark-places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

After the success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, it’s no surprise to see another of her chilling novels getting repackaged for the big screen. This one stars Charlize Theron as a woman who survived the brutal killing of her family as a child, but is being forced to face the events of that day again by a secret society who want to find out what really happened. Also starring Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz and Christina Hendricks this thriller is sure to shock and surprise.

 

Cate Blanchett intros Cinderella

Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett walked the red carpet and took to the stage before the Australian premiere of Cinderella in her hometown of Sydney, to give her own thoughts on playing the “wicked, not the ugly, stepmother”.

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

It’s a line Blanchett revealed she said to director Kenneth Branagh very early on – that although the stepmother has been variously called wicked and ugly over the centuries, her version would be the former.

Cinderella

Blanchett grew up on the Wonderful World of Disney, which played every Sunday night at six ‘o’ clock (I too remember the excitement of Sundays for that very reason), so said she was thrilled about tackling a live-action version.

And the result is very traditional.

“I think and hopefully you’ll agree, (it) feels like you’re hearing the story for the very first time,” Blanchett said.

“It’s gone back to Cinderella 101. It’s not a zeitgeisty, now-y telling. It’s got everything that people want from a fairytale and that’s what attracted me.”

And through making Cinderella, she saw a different side to Cinders than what she had seen as a child.

“When I grew up, Cinderella wasn’t actually a fairytale that I gravitated towards, because I thought, she’s a little bit of a doormat,” she said.

“(But) Ken (Branagh) kept talking about kindness as a superpower and everyone’s talking about how hard you can punch, and how brave you can be – but how kind you can actually be, (it) actually comes back at you.

“So the first time seeing the film, I noticed what makes Cinderella tick, and that was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really understand that going in.”

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

Now for me, in all honesty, I can’t say I was incredibly excited about seeing this version of Cinderella – the latest Disney animated classic getting the live-action treatment.

Last year there was Maleficent, but what was intriguing about that tale, was how it turned Sleeping Beauty on its head, exploring the POV of the villain. I was pleasantly surprised at the result.

But Cinderella? Don’t get me wrong, I loved the animated flick growing up, mainly because there were talking, singing mice. But I don’t think Cinderella is a particularly layered character. In fact, in this version, she feels almost devoid of personality (played with earnest by Downton Abbey’s Lily James).

And she’s not the only one. Richard Madden aka Robb Stark is reduced to a smiling, besotted Prince, while the stepsisters are over-the-top caricatures. The saving grace is, actually, Blanchett, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as the ditzy fairy godmother.

CinderellaBall

Maybe I’m too cynical. But this was actually too traditional for me. It felt like it was pandering to all the little girls who fell in love with princesses after Frozen. Except those princesses had flaws and guts and were fiery (there is actually a Frozen short playing before the film which is tremendously cute).

Having said that all the children around me seemed to love it. But I’m actually looking forward to seeing the next live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a brainy, brave outsider, who stands by her beliefs. On top of that Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Kevin Kline are already announced for the cast. Be our guest? Yes please!

 

 

Five Things from Alan Rickman Q&A

Sydney welcomed Alan Rickman and his wonderful voice back to Australia last week for the first time in decades, and during his trip, to promote new film A Little Chaos, he sat down for a couple of sold-out post-screening Q&As – one which I managed to get tickets to.
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Before I get to what he revealed, a bit about the film itself. Rickman directs for the first time since 1997 (some little thing called Harry Potter had apparently been taking up all his time) and also stars as King Louis XIV in the romantic drama. It follows the tale of a female landscape gardener (played by Kate Winslet) tasked with constructing an outdoor ballroom in the gardens at Versailles by an accomplished landscaper (played by Matthias Schoenaerts from Rust and Bone) after he sees how she thinks outside the box.
Alan RIckman directing A Little Chaos (Transmission Films)

Alan Rickman directing A Little Chaos (Transmission Films)

Rickman freely admits it’s entirely implausible, because a woman of that day and age could never have held a job.
“Women were merely decorative objects at the time.. her character is a complete impossibility,” he said.
Rickman talked at length about his career highlights, giving wonderful insights into little tidbits from movies sets and life in the biz.
Here’s five things I took away from the night:

1) his career began as a graphic designer

In fact he says: “When I was 18, the idea of going to drama school, that would be the quickest way to slit my throat, although I knew it was the thing I liked doing most.”
So he went to art school and worked as a graphic designer. I was only at 25 did he decide to go study acting at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
“Life is so much it seems to me, at this point in time, a big ol’ piece of hindsight,” he said.
“You figure out that these bits and pieces are what make you then decide that maybe you should direct a film.”

2) HE NEVER KNEW THE WHOLE STORY BEHIND SNAPE

“The internet thinks I was told the whole thing. This was not true at all,” he said.
In fact, the only hint Rickman had was when he was deciding whether or not to join the franchise. At the time, he had been offered the part of the hook-nosed Potions Master, but said he had no idea how to play the part unless he spoke to author JK Rowling.
“She waited until she was absolutely alone – that’s how much she holds it to herself – and she gave me one tiny piece of information,” he said.
“I was told one tiny little thing which made me think that he wasn’t quite what he seemed and that’s all I knew.”
When prompted to reveal what was said, Rickman proved a man of his word.
“No. I promised her I never would and I know she’s written it now, but you make a promise.”
In case you haven’t seen the (heartbreaking) video of Snape’s story pieced together chronologically by a fan, check it out:

3) HE JUMPED 40 FEET FOR DIE HARD

Back before everything was done using CGI (yes, remember those days?!), Rickman was asked to jump 40 feet for that epic final scene in Die Hard.
“The guy training me said, ‘look, as you fall, you must remember to put your arms out and your legs out in a kind of star shape, because if you don’t you’ll start to turn in mid-air, land on your head and kill yourself’,” he said.
“So I did as I was told, I think we did three takes at three ‘o’ clock in the morning and miraculously it was the last scene I shot in the film… just in case.”
Somewhat unbelievably, the wonderfully villainous Hans Gruber was his first movie role.
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4) IT MAKES SENSE (AND SENSIBILITY) WORKING WITH KATE WINSLET AND EMMA THOMPSON

“They give a shit, and it matters to them… and it’s not about their ego,” he said of the pair.
A Little Chaos actually marked the first time Rickman had worked with Winslet in two decades.
A-Little-Chaos
Their last film together? Sense and Sensibility, when Winslet was just 19.
Also in that film was the wonderful British actress Emma Thompson, who starred and wrote the screenplay (and has just been cast as Mrs Potts in the remake of Beauty and the Beast with Potter alumni Emma Watson).
SenseSensibility

Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility.

Rickman has worked with her about five times over the years, from Love, Actually to Harry Potter. He’s even directed her in his other film The Winter Guest, alongside her mother Phyllida Law.
“Or at least I think I was directing her,” he said in his droll way, to much laughter.
“She’s a powerhouse. And she has a lot of opinions, but that’s because she’s a really good writer, and I don’t know why she hasn’t directed yet.”
Good point. Emma Thompson should direct something!

5) IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT SUPERHEROES

Rickman says it’s tough getting an indie film simply made these days, let alone getting it into theatres so people can see it.
“There’s a huge balancing act going on now between cinemas filled with superhero movies and the fact that more and more people are sitting at home with big TV screens and surround-sound and they don’t want to go out to watch a complicated film,” he said.
“They go, ‘oh I’ll wait til that comes out on DVD’.”
But he thinks there’s a magic to seeing movies on the big screen with a crowd of people. And I couldn’t agree more.
“I really believe in the kind of energy that gets created,” he said.
“It’s how I grew up watching films. It’s a very visceral thing and you can feel all sorts of muscles growing in your heart and mind…
“I’m not sure that happens so much at home, when you’re in the middle of some movie and your mum screams ‘turn that down!'”
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