Piracy

Torrents Time Lets Anyone Launch Their Own Web Version of Popcorn Time 130

An anonymous reader writes: Popcorn Time, an app for streaming video torrents, just got its own web version: Popcorn Time Online. Unlike other attempts to bring Popcorn Time into the browser, this one is powered by a tool called Torrents Time, which delivers the movies and TV shows via an embedded torrent client. Oh, and the developers have released the code so that anyone can create their own version. If Popcorn Time is Hollywood's worst nightmare, Torrents Time is trying to make sure Hollywood can't wake up.
Censorship

Filmmaker Forces Censors To Watch 10-Hour Movie of Paint Drying (ibtimes.co.uk) 255

An anonymous reader writes: A British filmmaker has forced the people who decide how to censor films to watch a 10-hour movie of paint drying on a wall following a protest fundraising campaign. Charlie Lyne launched a Kickstarter to help raise the money needed to send his 'documentary' of a single shot of paint drying on a wall for consideration as a protest against the 'stronghold' the organisation has on the British film industry. The BBFC charge an initial fee of $144.88 to view a film and decide what certificate to give it, and then and additional $10.15 for each minute that the film lasts. The idea was the more money Lyne could raise via his fundraiser, the longer his paint-drying film could last. The campaign eventually nearly £8,500, meaning he was able to send in a 607 minute video which the examiners had to watch in its entirety.
Movies

Hollywood Turning Against Digital Effects (newyorker.com) 232

An anonymous reader writes: One of the easiest complaints to lob at a modern film is that the special effects look bad. It's been over two decades since Jurassic Park; the novelty is finally wearing off. The New Yorker puts it this way: "It's as if directors—especially the reboot generation—have finally become self-conscious about CGI; 2015 was the year they got embarrassed by the digital miracles of the movies." Both the new Star Wars film and Mad Max: Fury Road were lauded for their use of "practical effects" — not abandoning CGI entirely, but using it to embellish scenes, rather than creating them from whole cloth. "Movies are a faddish, self-quoting business. At one time, the stark lighting effects of the German Expressionists were the visual rage. Later, it was the helicopter shot or the zoom. Any new tool, once used promiscuously, becomes a cliché. As time goes by, a director rediscovers the tool, and what was once cliché becomes an homage to a distant and more cultured time. This is what has happened to the last, pre-digital wave of effects. They are now happily vintage." It also counts as marketing, when you consider that audiences are turned off by too much CGI: "Touting your movie's wood, concrete, and steel is an implicit promise of restraint. I didn't go totally wild, the filmmaker is telling the audience, not like Peter Jackson did in the Hobbit trilogy."
Media

Netflix's Doomed Battle Against VPNs Begins (venturebeat.com) 159

An anonymous reader writes: Australian unblocking service uFlix recently announced that Netflix has begun implementing its plans to block users who take advantage of web proxies and VPNs to get around location restrictions on content. Shortly afterward, the service rolled out a fix to restore service, despite Netflix's efforts. The article makes the case that Netflix is probably just fine with this: "Netflix, ultimately, is caught between a rock and a hard place. The company has gone on record many times criticizing the way content licensing deals are negotiated globally. Of course, Netflix would love to be able offer a consistent library of content around the world. But it also has to stay on-side with those who hold the rights to the content, otherwise they may threaten to pull shows and movies altogether. The result is that Netflix is going through the motions of blocking VPNs, even though it understand perfectly well that these measures are doomed to fail."
Star Wars Prequels

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' Delayed By Seven Months (hollywoodreporter.com) 203

Mr.Intel writes with bad news for those of you champing at the bit to see the next Star Wars movie. Engadget reports: "You'll have to wait a bit longer to see what the heck is up with Luke Skywalker. Disney announced this afternoon that it's delaying Star Wars: Episode VIII from May 26, 2017 by seven months to December 15, 2017. Disney didn't give any reason for the delay, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that it'll allow the studio to give the film a Christmas release treatment, which worked pretty well for The Force Awakens. Additionally, it'll give director/writer Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) more time to work on the film. THR's Borys Kit notes that may include rewrites to focus more on the new class of Star Wars characters."
Movies

Geoblocking, Licensing, and Piracy Make For Tough Choices at Netflix (thestack.com) 106

An anonymous reader writes: If Netflix's promise to invigilate users' IP addresses and block VPNs is more than a placatory sop to the lawyers, and if the studios would rather return to fighting piracy by lobbying governments to play whack-a-mole with torrent sites, the streaming company's long-term efforts to abolish or reduce regional licensing blockades could falter this year. This article examines the possible hard choices Netflix must make in appeasing major studios without destroying the user-base that got their attention in the first place. I wonder how long VPN vendors will keep bragging that their services provide worldwide streaming availability, and whether some of them will actually do a decent job of it.
Movies

RIP Alan Rickman, AKA Hans Gruber, Severus Snape (variety.com) 174

TigerPlish writes to note Variety's report on the death of actor Alan Rickman, who died after a short bout with cancer, and was surrounded by friends and family when he went. Rickman may be most familiar to you as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (especially in his final scene), or as Harry Potter's Snape, but his film career was long, crossing genre lines and extending into five decades.
Movies

Netflix Movie and TV Show Country Comparison and Content Lists (finder.com.au) 75

SlappingOysters writes: Netflix's surprise large-scale global rollout to over 100 countries last week saw the company's huge entertainment offering appear in homes across the world overnight, however, no two countries were offered the exact same content. Finder has created a master list of TV shows and movies available for each country. There is also an interactive global map comparing each country and a comparison table that compares each country's offering to those of the USA. Last week a list of ID codes for all subgenres was released for anyone interested in narrowing down their searches.
Star Wars Prequels

Quantifying How Much the Force Is Used In Star Wars (bloomberg.com) 188

An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg has posted a data visualization for a very important subject: how much, how often, and to what effect The Force is used in Star Wars movies. As you may expect, we see the light side of the Force used much more often than the dark side. Luke Skywalker spends about 11 minutes using the Force, but pre-Vader Anakin clocks in at under 3 minutes of Force time — less, even, than Palpatine. It also turns out that Jedi really love Force Leaping, while the dark side has a monopoly on making lightning and choking people. It's kind of silly, but also kind of cool. Bloomberg even posted their methodology: "To arrive at a figure for total on-screen Force time, we decided to measure cumulatively, by scene. That means when multiple people use the Force simultaneously, we counted the time only once. Light-side and dark-side times are the cumulative durations that characters associated with each side are depicted using the Force. When multiple characters associated with the same side at the same time use the Force, that time is also counted only once. When light-side and dark-side characters use the Force at the same time, the durations are scored separately. Each recorded duration is rounded to the nearest second, and no use of the Force was assigned less than one second in duration." (That's just a fraction of it.)
Businesses

Netflix Teams With LG For 'Prepaid' Streaming Worldwide (engadget.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced at CES that the service had gone live in 130 additional countries including India, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. He called the expansion "the birth of a global TV network." Partnering with LG, the company hopes to expand its reach by providing prepaid access worldwide. China remains the most notable holdout for the streaming service but Hastings is hopeful saying, "We are continuing to work on that and we are very patient."
Sci-Fi

What the Future Fiction of 2015 Revealed About Humans Today (vice.com) 179

An anonymous reader writes: There were a lot of stories told about the future in 2015. More than usual, maybe. Big budget blockbusters, hefty, idea-rich novels, and epic, dystopian video games—there was complex, stirring speculative fiction dripping from every media faucet we've got. And it spoke volumes about our anxieties about the present. In 2015, those anxieties are, apparently, concern the rise of science denial, climate change, total collapse.
Technology

Ask Slashdot: Predictions For 2016? (slashdot.org) 239

An anonymous reader writes: Ok folks, it's been ten years since we've done this. What are your tech/science/nerd/misc predictions for 2016? Is VR going to be the bombshell it's being hyped as? Are wearables going to come into their own? Which tech companies are going to implode, and which are going to blossom? What discoveries are we going to make this year? Will people ever shut up about Donald Trump? Which new movies, books, games, and TV shows are going to be awesome? Which are going to suck? How will our privacy and security erode in 2016? And anything else you'd care to forecast.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Pulls In $1 Billion At Record Speed (reuters.com) 467

New submitter henrydan798 writes to note that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has set a new record for ticket sales, becoming the fastest movie ever to earn a billion dollars at the till. As the L.A. Times reports, The latest installment in the "Star Wars" franchise grossed an estimated $153.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its second weekend, beating the lower end of analyst expectations of $140 million. This drives the J.J. Abrams-directed picture to a to-date domestic gross of $544.5 million. "The Force Awakens," which cost an estimated $200 million to produce, debuted last weekend to record domestic ticket sales of $248 million. It also grossed $281 million overseas for a global total of $529 million, topping the previous worldwide debut benchmark set in June by "Jurassic World" ($525 million). This week, with an international estimated gross of $546 million to date, the film became the fastest to surpass $1 billion globally. Were any of those dollars yours? If so, do you think they were well spent?
Movies

Sci-Fi Screenwriter and Author George Clayton Johnson Dead At 86 21

George Clayton Johnson, writer of the first-aired episode of Star Trek, and co-author of Logan's Run, died on Christmas Day of cancer, at the age of 86. Johnson was a prolific television writer, penning several episodes of The Twilight Zone, and writing for several series as well; he was also a nominee for both the Nebula and Hugo awards. His first-published story, Oceans 11, was turned into a movie, and then revived as a the kernel for a film franchise. Johnson wrote comics as well as screenplays, short stories, and novels; he was originally slated to appear at the upcoming San Diego Comic Fest.
Hardware Hacking

Forrest Mimms On Modern Air Travel With a Bag Full of Electronics 169

Evidently even Forrest Mimms isn't famous enough to fly without hassle when carrying a briefcase full of electronics; he writes at Make about his experiences, both before and after 2001. A relevant slice: After police were called when I was going through security at the San Antonio International Airport and after major problems going through security in Kona, Hawaii, I finally realized the obvious: Most people who don’t make things have no idea how to evaluate homemade equipment. Some are terrified by exposed wires and circuit boards, maybe because of bomb scenes in movies. So I gave up. Now my carryon bag is only half stuffed with electronics; the rest is shipped ahead via FedEx.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu User Count Pegged At Over One Billion (phoronix.com) 165

An anonymous reader writes: In response to an article claiming Ubuntu didn't reach its goal of 200 million users this year — a goal set out by Mark Shuttleworth in 2011 to surpass 200 million users by 2015 — a Canonical engineer has come out to say the opposite. Dustin Kirkland, a member of Ubuntu Product and Strategy team, has come out to say there are more than one billion Ubuntu users. His billion tally though does include cloud/container instances as well as those shopping online at Wallmart, watching popular movies where the studios used Ubuntu servers, streamed from Netflix, rode with Uber, and other businesses that rely upon Ubuntu servers.
Star Wars Prequels

Reddit Is Banning Users That Post Star Wars 7 Spoilers (softpedia.com) 268

An anonymous reader writes: A few naughty users have started spamming Reddit with Star Wars 7 spoilers, but also hoaxes. Some known Star Wars fans with Reddit accounts were even bombarded with PMs about the upcoming film, with trolls trying to ruin the movie before they saw it. As a result, Reddit is now banning any user that posts Star Wars 7 spoilers. The movie officially launches tomorrow; do you plan to see it? Do you care about spoilers?
Data Storage

Netflix To Re-Encode Entire 1 Petabyte Video Catalogue In 2016 To Save Bandwidth (variety.com) 285

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix has spent four years developing a new and more efficient video-encoding process that can shave off 20% in terms of space and bandwidth without reducing the quality of streamed video. With streaming video accounting for 70% of broadband use, the saving is much-needed, although the advent of 4K streaming, higher frame rates and HDR are likely to account for it all soon after. Netflix video algorithms manager Anne Aaron explained to Variety that certain types of video benefit little from the one-size-fits-all compression approach that Netflix has been using until now: "You shouldn't allocate the same amount of bits for My Little Pony as for The Avengers."
Star Wars Prequels

Writer: Why Watching the Original Star Wars Again Was a Bad Idea (cnet.com) 400

An anonymous reader writes: CNET's Michael Franco recently sat down and watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope again in preparation for the release of The Force Awakens later this week. His advice to anyone who's thinking of doing the same is to save your childhood memories and skip watching it again. Unlike wine, Franco doesn't think the movie gets better with age. He writes: " Since that first viewing, Luke, Vader and company have loomed large in my imagination, and clearly in the imaginations of many other adults introduced to the sci-fi franchise as kids. So have the rest of the characters, as well as the sounds of a lightsaber, a Wookiee and a TIE fighter and the idea that someday I would learn to control people through the power of suggestion and a wave of my hand. But it now seems that maybe all that got a little gilded in my memory."
Movies

MST3K Breaks Kickstarter Record 31

the_Bionic_lemming writes: Raising over 6.3 million dollars in just one month MST3K fans helped push the new 14 episode series past the Official Kickstarter Veronica Mars total of $5,702,153 by raising $5,764,229 On Kickstarter. $600,000 + Was added to the total from the Add on store at MST3K.com . And what's more, they did it with only 48,270 backers compared to 91,585 Veronica Mars backers.

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