FIRST LOOK: Never Rarely Sometimes Always (VOD)

The number of new(er) releases hitting VOD is multiplying and growing. Check out the list above in red with 8 of 9 titles released on various streaming channels.

As for the “limited” theater releases that I’ve remarked before are (too often) difficult to locate, maybe when the pandemic passes, we’ll be in a world where “limited” means that it is simultaneously available on VOD, preferably at a reasonable rental price.

But back to Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” won prizes in Sundance and Berlin before Focus Features released it in early March — days before theaters closed nationwide. The Universal subsidiary is now following a strategy it applied to movies like “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” by pushing “Never Rarely” into VOD on Friday.

How the Producers of Never Rarely Sometimes Always Made Peace With VOD | IndieWire

I vaguely remember this movie, and it wasn’t part of our Coming to theaters in March 2020 list, so it was probably showing as a limited release.

Our coming soon lists are so jacked up right now. April 2020 is a real mess with maybe two of the proposed 11 movies actually being released as planned. I don’t know what the story is with My Spy, that movie has moved around multiple times and it’s showing at MovieInsider as still being released (somehow) in April, but that is probably inaccurate and it’s been delayed or moved again.

Bottom line, it’s not a good time to be covering movies released in theaters, because there are almost none being released. Out of necessity, I’m spending more time on streaming movies & TV, plus news, opinion and research posts where the information won’t change tomorrow, next week or month.

When theaters open again, we’ll go back to regular programming.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always will be available on VOD April 3, 2020.

Independent Theaters Testing Virtual Screenings

Before you get super excited by the words “virtual theater” (like me), as some are billing it, the reality is it is essentially $12 VOD for movies that should be showing in independent theaters. If they weren’t closed.

The title to the theater shown above, “virtual screenings”, is more apt.

Though some “virtual theater” screenings began rolling out around March 20, the weekend of March 27 has the first full crop of movies available to watch, from slick noir to sardonic comedies to repertory titles from the 1970s to Oscar nominees. If you’re looking to see something new and exciting this weekend — and support independent theater at the same time — then here are 15 options available right now.

15 movies you can buy a “virtual ticket” to this weekend – Vox

The problem with this idea is it goes only part of the way. It’s not as virtual as even very dated tech currently currently allows.

What about an Oculus virtual reality app version of your theaters? Oculus/Facebook where are you right now? See: Watching Movies on Oculus Go

What these independent theater owners should be doing is personalizing the movie watching experience. How about scheduled watch-a-longs where a host has a chat during the virtual screening (see: 2nd Annual Halloween Mystery Movie Event Features 4 Shudder Movies)? Or maybe, the ability for a 3D virtual panoramic tour of your independent theater, choose your seat and then the movie plays, a la Second Life theaters.

Virtual Reality 3D Theaters emulate the social experience of the movie theater

The other part of this that is undesirable is the theater owners should already have been doing this. Waiting for the pandemic makes the “virtual screening” pitch seem — and probably is — desperate. If they were embracing virtual reality all along, including handicapped and disabled patrons who cannot as easily attend regular screenings, then this promotion of their virtual theater now would be more genuine and worthwhile. They would be supporting those moviegoers who wanted to come more often to their theater but weren’t as easily able to do so.

So, that’s why I think simply making movies available for VOD at $12 a rental and labeling them “virtual screening” just doesn’t go far enough.

I’m not a theater owner, but giving all of them this free advice: start investigating this tech and embracing it into your business ASAP. Make your patrons feel like the theater is still open, the lifeblood is there, the only thing missing are brand new wide release movies (and you should be plotting and planning to get those pictures screening — like Trolls World Tour that’s coming this Friday, yes, how about a Trolls World Tour viewing party?!).

Good business ideas are out there begging to be grabbed by the creative, the innovative, the wise. Those independent theater owners have a chance at surviving the pandemic.

The virtual playbook already exists. This might be one time where forced social distancing promotes virtual reality as an opportunity it’s never experienced before.

Virtual Screenings – what do YOU think?

Would/will you support your local independent theater through virtual screenings? Or do you, like me, think $12 (or so) VOD rentals, even when the theater gets to keep a meatier chunk of the ticket sale, isn’t quite enough in 2020?

One Big Reason Why Movie Theaters Will Be OK Compared To Streaming

Amazon Originals section as of March 2020 … nothing promoting what’s coming soon

As moviegoers continue to wait for theaters to reopen, I’ve been thinking about something that streaming doesn’t do as well as movie theaters.

Scratch that. I’m being too kind. Movie and TV originals on streaming promotion is convoluted, largely absent and/or confusing.

Let’s take new wide release movies. If you want to watch a new movie that is advertised chances are better than good you’ll find it at many different movie theaters near where you live. Whether or not we like the 20 minutes of trailers before the new movie plays, it’s a captive promotional vehicle that succeeds in catching our interest in upcoming titles. The more times we see these trailers, the more anticipation builds (or wanes if the trailer sucks).

I could argue that non-wide releases are very similar to what happens to older movies. Those you missed in the theater that enter the complicated licensing morass world of streaming.

Where does the movie end up after its theatrical run? You can pay (too much) in the VOD market buying the streaming or physical media. But what if you don’t want to do that? What if you just want to view it on the streaming channels you’re paying for already without paying an additional rental fee?

Good luck!

HBO, a premium subscription channel, gets a lot of new movies first, but, again, only certain licensed movies. Before HBO, you might catch the movie on an airplane or in a hotel room playing on the “still in theaters” or “just left theaters” movie rotation. After that, it’s the premium channels maybe. After that, maybe Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or ____, see, it’s confusing.

We would like to see the movie on a streaming channel we’re already paying for, so how can this be done? I don’t want to go into Sherlock Holmes mode looking for where a movie will stream and when.

The new movie coming soon promotion model just works better in movie theaters than it does at home. Go see it at the movie theater and you actually, really have a good chance of seeing it. Once it leaves the movie theater, you can maybe still catch it on VOD or buy the blu-ray, but after that … it’s anybody’s guess when and where it will appear on streaming.

Maybe the studios want it this way so that you have to buy the physical media and/or digital copy? The problem is who wants to buy something that may have zero rewatchability? Yes, you can pay the $3.99-$6.99 rental fee and see what you think. If you love it, then you can pay another $10-20 to buy it.

Maybe the rentals should discount the purchase price? That might make paying $3.99-6.99 more attractive as a rental. I think part of why Redbox took off so well is the convenience (big red boxes in easy to locate areas) and inexpensive rental fees. $1-2 is the sweet spot for rentals. I’d rent more if the price was $1-2. At $4-7, I’m thinking about just waiting for it to appear on the streaming channels I’m already paying for monthly subscriptions.

How many other movie watchers think like this?

Original Movies and TV Shows on Streaming

Now, let’s look at new original movies on streaming. Amazon Prime originals, Netflix Originals, Hulu Originals, Disney+, HBO MAX, Peacock, Apple TV+ and the list goes on. There are too many different places for even someone like me who wants to follow new movies.

I’ll give you a perfect example. Anthology shows. Love them! Some readers know The Twilight Zone (classic) is my favorite. I recently learned Amazon Prime has a new one coming out called Tales from the Loop on April 3 (see: FIRST LOOK: Tales From The Loop (TV Series) – Amazon). Probably wouldn’t have known about this had I not stumbled upon a random article about it from inverse.com: TALES FROM THE LOOP IS AN EMOTIONAL SCI-FI BINGE FOR A HOPELESS TIME.

Why don’t we see advertising for this on Amazon Prime? Why doesn’t the Amazon Prime interface show me what’s coming soon in their “Originals” area? Instead, all we see is what they already have. Take a look at the screenshot at the top of this post. Nothing about what’s coming soon. April 3 is this week away and a new anthology TV series is coming out and there is nothing promoting it on their own channel!

This doesn’t happen with new wide release movies. We get trailers, articles, advance discussion and then the movie is out and we can go see it from local theaters. In the streaming world, even when we’re subscribed to channels, we too often don’t have this organized promotion.

Netflix is better about promoting their original content. They do have an area on the side of the interface entitled “coming soon” and you can see what’s coming and when. Kudos to them for being one of the few that actively promotes their new, original shows. They also make trailers for some of their new movies. Just recently, we were able to make FIRST LOOK for two Netflix Original movies coming in April 2020. Yay! This is promising. I wish everybody making new movies and TV shows would do this.

Help us out here. Those of us with movie and TV blogs. Make it easier to know when you have something original and new coming out. Throw us a bigger bone so we can get excited and write about it and spread the awareness to others.

Maybe they already are and I’m just not digging around in the right search keywords and subsections of streaming websites. Ask yourself, though, if someone who follows this information, who wants to write about this is having difficulty how are you going to get the attention of someone who just enjoys watching?

Until streaming finds a better way to organize and unite promoting their original projects — and yes, they could get better about this someday — movie theaters have little to worry about with moviegoers. We’ll go to the theater where we know when we can see it. Yeah, we’ll pay more than we should for the concessions, but won’t have to wait for the pricier rental in 60-90 days or buy something that we may not even have liked watching the first time to collect digital or real dust.

This is the big reason movie theaters need not worry about current day streaming. It’s possible streaming improves and organizes their marketing and promotional efforts. Until then, however, if you want to see what’s new, you go to the theaters or wait for the physical media and/or VOD rental. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess when and where it will come out.

How do you track movies you’d like to see showing up on streaming channels? Do you use services like JustWatch to track them down? Do you wait them out for VOD, premium and then hope they show up on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc (see: Why Some Movies Are Impossible To Find Online)? What is your strategy for tracking down where to watch them?

20+ The Hunt Reviews – Not as politically charged, but not that good either

The Hunt ⭐️⭐️

Like other moviegoers, I was intrigued by the controversy surrounding the movie’s initial release and subsequent pull and delay.

After seeing it, the hype wasn’t deserved. It wasn’t a bad film, but it wasn’t as politically offensive as charged. Really, that’s my biggest beef with the film, or pork, rather, since a pig is on the box art.

Despite the controversy that was led by people who hadn’t even seen his movie, Zobel says he supported Universal’s decision to shelve the film out of respect for the victims of the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. As much as the film’s principals wanted to defend their movie against the false narrative around it, Zobel and Co. opted to take the high road and not push back.

Why ‘The Hunt’ Director Decided Not to Push Back Against Critics | Hollywood Reporter

Time to dig into my critique, which will contain spoilers. If you haven’t seen The Hunt and want to, then you might want to bookmark this post and come back after seeing the movie. Don’t want to ruin it for you.

… you’ve been warned, SPOILERS AHEAD ….

Political satire that panders to both sides is a difficult sell

Really, this movie would have been better if it went all in on either side of the politics. Instead, the main character is more centrist in behavior and actions, which leaves either extreme political side, right or left, sort of hanging.

If you’re hellbent on making a movie about killing “deplorables” based on a tweet, then why hold back?

This movie felt like it kept wanting to pull back on being extreme — except in the case of the violence. A mistake.

The controversy surrounding the movie raised my expectations to a level that didn’t deliver. It’s like the movie Faces of Death promising to be the most shocking, gruesome thing I ever saw and it was “banned in 50 countries.” All that hype led me to a certain expectation.

This movie failed to deliver on being as extreme as it wanted to be.

Before you can have a message or agenda or subtext, you need an entertaining movie

The basic premise of the movie has been done before — and better. People waking up in an unfamiliar situation and facing death. Go see Cube or Saw. Much better movies about people waking up in strange, perilous circumstances.

As for people being hunted for sport? How about The Running Man or Jean-Claude Van Damme in Hard Target.

Reviews by Others

Let’s see what others are saying about The Hunt.

Recommended

  1. Cookie N Screen: “…is enjoyable in places but heavily misguided. It feels too much like a gaggle of writers got together and frothed at the mouth to provide the internet with something to get angry about. It’s just – if you are going there, go the whole hog.”
  2. Danielle Vanderstock: “I went in with a pretty good idea of what I would see and I had a good time. Mostly I just enjoyed Betty Gilpin’s brilliant acting and want to see her in more stuff immediately.”
  3. Darren Lucas / Movie Reviews 101: “This is a wonderful satire that will get laughs that will make you think about who you word things in your own life, with a outstanding leading performance from Betty Gilpin.”
  4. Full Circle Cinema / Cleve Barber Jr: “This film is an absolute blast for fans of thriller films. But The Hunt takes things to another level in its final stretch, connecting its story to the classic work Animal Farm. Its incorporation into the film is magnificently brilliant, putting a through line between two works of political satire.”
  5. Nick Bartlett / critical popcorn (3/5): “Everyone is a caricature, from the overly woke liberals who happily murder people but balk at harming an animal, to the immigrant hating fanatics. If anything, the irreverence shown to both sides makes it less controversial”
  6. Nikko Soto (8/10): “Overall, I really enjoyed watching The Hunt and I’m grateful that the film was actually released.”
  7. No But Listen: “The Hunt, with its sharp wit, great action, and propulsive central performance from Betty Gilpin, is worth far more than just the controversy that surrounds it.”
  8. Stan The Man Movie Reviews (4/5): “While the movie has a less than original story arc, like horror films featuring a “last girl,” “The Hunt” approaches the toxic political climate with equal doses of humor and exaggeration. Liberals and conservatives alike should find things to love and hate in the film and, to me, that means it must be doing something right, annoying good people on both sides.”
  9. victorsmyname (3.5/5): “I would love to say that The Hunt, on the contrary, is saying more about human flaws than what an idealogue (who needs the world to function in a black-and-white manner, lest they sacrifice agenda for objectivity) can comprehend. But I don’t wanna make the movie seem too smart. It’s fun, though.”

Not Recommended (or undecided/unspecified)

  1. Amused in the Dark: “…a muddled mess with mildly entertaining death scenes that Spinal Tap would give the thumps up to. I am pretty sure the movie wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but then I go why not? If you are going to make this – take it seriously. If you aren’t going to take it seriously, make it funny. You have to pick…one. At least one.”
  2. Bringin the Juice: “…this is your typical Blumhouse affair, and I am not usually a huge fan of their stuff so you can imagine how I feel here. There are some fun action moments but overall the story and the lessons here just did not do it for me.”
  3. Daniel’s Dunkings: “…as a social satire it’s completely, utterly, magnificently toothless when it should have been tearing lumps out of both sides or even (whisper it) picked a side. But no, instead it’s a shell, a shadow, a pale imitation of the film it could have been.”
  4. David Crow / Den of Geek: “The Hunt so clearly wants to be Get Out and check its target audiences’ privilege. But in the end, it just feels like it spent 90 minutes saying, “I would’ve voted for Obama a third time if I could.”
  5. Halloween Year Round: “Among the stylized killing and dark sense of humor, the film equally pokes fun at liberal and conservative alike, spouting talking points, and discussing commonly debated issues (gun control, immigration, climate change, gender/race equality, etc.).”
  6. In Their Own League (2.5/5): “…is nothing more than an action-filled movie full of stereotypes that missed the opportunity to deliver a powerful message. This film is the live-action depiction of a social media post where both parties are attacking one another.”
  7. Just A Little Bit Random: “While some action works there’s a lot that focuses too much that dwells on blood and gore rather than the action. This is a film for fans of high gore horror, but not a great deal of others.”
  8. Matthew Liedke on Film (1.5/5): “…gives a feeling that it’s just trying too hard. The dark humor here is more eye-roll inducing than laugh producing, the characters aren’t all that great and the movie runs too long considering how simple of a story this is.”
  9. screenaddictreviews (6/10): “the new generation Hunger Games with real world controversy and minor jokes about racism and a whole lot of girl on girl fighting.”
  10. Society Reviews (1/5): “There is no messaging or propaganda in this movie, the writers aren’t smart enough to inject it so what you get is a hollow mess that makes you indifference for anyone who engages in politics.”
  11. The Game of Nerds (2.5/5): “…succeeds broadly, but loses itself in the details. Perhaps the complexity of today’s political conflicts require misfires like this, so that a better film can come along and truly nail it. In that sense, The Hunt may be remembered as the prototype for the film that adeptly satirizes the modern world. It’s the first film I can recall where the conflict centers squarely on a Twitter beef, but it won’t be the last.”

Linked above and wondering what would be the cool thing to do next? Commenting once in awhile is always good (I like reader and other blogger interaction). If you have the trackback/pingback come to your site then just approve it because after people read your review then they can come here and follow links and read someone else’s review. What comes around goes around and sharing is the ultimate “thank you!” on the internet.

Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quoting from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.

Happy movie watching!

About 5% of China Theaters Reopening

Hey, it might only be 5%, but it’s a start.

State media CGTN reported that 486 theaters were open for business on Friday. On Monday, financial publication Caixin said the number had risen to 507, representing less than 5% of all cinemas in commercial operation prior to the virus outbreak.

China Theaters Begin to Reopen as Coronavirus Threat Recedes – Variety

If we look at the timeline, China closed theaters first, about 45 days ago, so if they are starting to reopen as the virus recedes, then we’re about 45 days out in the United States from seeing the same situation occur here.

Meanwhile, in Washington state where we reside, they just put a two-week order for people in non-essential businesses to stay at home. Both of our regular jobs are considered essential, so this will have no impact on us, but just thought I’d throw that out there.

45 days. It gets better. Theaters reopening anywhere sounds like life starting to return to normal.

Collapsing Theatrical Windows Are Not The End Of Cinema Life As We Know It

A lot of doomsday news out there right now and it’s getting tougher to avoid and stay positive. I’ve been saying almost since this blog started that the theatrical window needed to be reduced (see: It’s Time To Shrink Theatrical Window To 30 Days). 90 days is too long to wait for streaming. We’re in a “now, now, now!” society and any business that doesn’t adapt will die.

I didn’t write about this in October with any vision that there would be this coronavirus forcing hands, but if the movie theater chains would have been more receptive to streaming six months ago, they’d better be able to sell streaming as an alternative viewing option now. Remember how they dug in and wouldn’t let The Irishman screen in theaters because Netflix wasn’t honoring the all-too-sacred theatrical window?

What comes around goes around.

Vudu is advertising movies as “theater at home” I like that graphic (see top of post), but don’t care as much for the slogan. It’s not theater at home and can’t be unless you have a decent sized room with theater seating, a giant TV screen and superb sound quality.

Some people do. Most of them are wealthy. For the rest of the world, these are merely movies that were meant to be in the theaters, but currently are available at home because there is no where else to show them.

Studios are trying to ring some cash register anywhere during the current virus climate.

While the on-demand model may work or at least mitigate the damage for some movies that are shut out of theaters due to the virus, Greenfield says,“the math really doesn’t work” for big films. For low-budget or mid-range movies, releasing them on demand remains a gamble — an exercise in trying to solve an equation when variables are unknown.

Coronavirus Forces Movie Studios to Reckon With Collapsing Theatrical Windows | Hollywood Reporter

I tend to agree that for films with budgets exceeding $100 million it’s not likely to be as profitable, which is why when theaters can reopen they will and the big tentpole movies will encourage people to return to theaters.

Speaking from my own point of view, I want the theatrical window to shrink so more new movies that aren’t wide releases can be available sooner. There are dozens of movies that don’t even show up in local theaters that we’re unable to see. A few of them I’ve profiled here that I really wanted to see — but couldn’t (yet). If those movies launched simultaneously in limited screenings and on demand streaming, I could see more of these new movies.

Will admit again, as have done several times before, that we aren’t average moviegoers. We’re extreme moviegoers. We’ve seen around 100 new movies in theaters in the last six months, when the average moviegoer sees 3-4 movies in theaters a year. We’re not the norm.

The bigger problem than the theatrical window is film budgets. Studios need to go back to being more penny-pinching with film budgets. This will make it easier to turn a profit no matter how they decide to release films. Simultaneously releases for say movies with $10 million and less budgets will allow studios to explore new income opportunites.

And theater chains needs to get with the program. AMC has an on-demand streaming division, but it seems to be left out of their current gloom and doom conversations. Why aren’t they getting more creative about these options right now, actively and excitedly promoting them?

AMC is promoting on their website “theater on demand” which is their version of VUDU’s Video On Demand rental service (you can buy Onward from Disney for $20). Personally, I don’t see as much value in a rental for $20, but do see buying the movie for $20 as worthwhile. Heck, throw in bonus and behind the scenes and it makes for an at home price even more attractive.

Instead, AMC, is out there moaning and groaning about all their fixed costs and $0 revenue coming in and how they need a loan to keep their business afloat.

Aren’t they making any money from their (“new”) streaming? Must be greater than $0. Something isn’t adding up here.

Regal Closes All US Theaters, Suspends Billing for Unlimited Pass Customers

This is a sad day for movie theater fans. Finding a movie to play in a theater — any theater — in any United States city? Difficult, perhaps soon to be impossible. AMC and Regal Cinemas have closed all their U.S theaters.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter they expect most, if not all, cinemas in the U.S. to follow suit and go dark in the coming days, much as in Europe and parts of Asia. Regal is the first U.S. circuit to make a blanket announcement.

Regal to Close All U.S. Theaters Indefinitely Amid Coronavirus Pandemic | Hollywood Reporter

We’re down in Las Vegas right now and yesterday we caught — literally — the last showing of The Hunt ⭐️⭐️ at 4:30pm at the Boulder Station casino in Las Vegas. We then tried to go down to the Palace Station for the Cinebarre and it was already closed (see sign above).

We received a note from our Regal Unlimited app that they are suspending billing temporarily. We were both wondering if we’d be billed $42 USD for the month when there were no movies we could see, even if we wanted. Turns out that Regal already has planned this out. Good for them. We wish the theaters were still open, but appreciate not being charged for something we are now unable to use.

Unconfirmed as of this writing, but I believe Cinemark theaters in Las Vegas are still open — they are showing movie times as of moments ago — so movies can still be seen in those theaters, but who knows how much longer they’ll hold out.

MGM has closed down their 14 properties on the strip in Vegas, and that alone feels weird. Even during 9/11, which by the way, we were also in Las Vegas, everything stayed open.

How long will these theater closures last? We tried asking questions but even the employees we spoke to were told nothing. Only that they needed to close and there were no answers as to when the theaters would reopen.

Sad, sad days.