Friday, May 31, 2013

Jeff Macke and Dr. Jon Najarian Discuss Amazon and Netflix Stock Prices Affected by Original Content

Jeff and John
Jeff Macke and Dr. Jon Najarian on Breakout

Jeff Macke Has Dr. Jon Najarian on Breakout

Jeff Macke of Breakout (Yahoo! Finance) says: “It’s very hard to make original programming.”
He’s speaking in particular about the upcoming challenge that Netflix is facing. They have some success with the Kevin Spacey original series House of Cards. Macke points out that HBO is a subsidiary of Time Warner for that very reason.

Jeff Macke makes the point that Netflix is trying to make it on their own without a deal with Viacom to stream their content. Guest analyst Jon Najarian on Breakout thinks that it is tougher on Netflix to produce original programming than it would be on Amazon, because Amazon is more diversified.

Dr. Jon Najarian says that it is harder on Netflix stock prices because they deal exclusively in content, but Amazon is more diversified, and gets paid up-front with Amazon Prime. Netflix does not get paid up front for their content. Netflix stock prices have gone above $200 at the end of May 2013, while Amazon’s stock prices are above $260 per share.

Dr. Jon Najarian thinks that Reed Hastings did very well with the Kevin Spacey original series House of Cards. However the jury is still out on Arrested Development.

Dr. Jon Najarian thinks that since the Netflix stock price is above $200, there may be a stock split coming in the near future.

Amazon has Announced to launch 5 New Original Shows

Is Amazon making a smart move by producing 5 original series?

Good question.

Dr. Jon Najarian thinks they are trying to “confuse the investor,” but thinks that because Amazon is so diversified, it is less volatile (than Netflix) in the event that the new original programming is a flop. 

Essentially, the stock price of Netflix is more likely to be directly affected, than it is for Amazon.

He thinks that the original content plan for Amazon “may or may not work.”
Dr. Jon Najarian points out that Amazon doesn’t want to be compared to Disney and Time Warner, because it affects the stock prices.

Amazon plans to release a full season of the comedy shows Betas and Alpha House, along with kids shows Annebots, Creative Galaxy, and Tumbleleaf, exclusively on Amazon Prime.

Amazon is confident in launching these shows because the success of their pilots looked promising.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

SyFy Channel Presents a Dud with Defiance

SyFy's Defiance
Defiance on SyFy

I wanted Defiance to be a winner. I really did. But for me, it flopped, for many reasons.

Defiance is SyFy channel's latest "original" television series. It is set in the future of Earth, after it was attacked by an alien race. There was a war. The result was a co-mingling of humans and aliens in an Earth city called Defiance, which is literally built on top of the former city of St. Louis, Missouri. You can even see the famous Arch. Thank you for salvaging the famous arch on a futuristic television series on SyFy.

Indogenes are like the Borg?

The Indogene aliens in Defiance are usually seen as servants to families, and an aid to the mayor, and the town doctor. The SyFy show page says that Indogenes are a partly cybernetic race, but there is no hint to this in the early episodes or obvious cybernetic external hardware on the characters.

If they are supposed to be like the borg, you could've fooled me.

The Doctor (Doc Yewll) on Defiance resembles a character from Farscape, named Zhaan. She was played by Virginia Hey, and she was a Delvian priest. Because of her extensive knowledge on herbal medicines, she was the doctor and healer aboard the living spaceship, Moya.

The makeup artists may argue that she has scales, but we really don't see her up close enough to see the small intricacies of her makeup. She just looks like a pale, alien with a bloated face. Her character is obnoxious, and has very bad attempts to be sarcastically funny. It is not funny. She is too similar to Zhaan on Farscape, except that Zhaan actually had purple in her makeup, which made the race more believable.

Lack of Moral Integrity
My biggest qualm with the show is that it lacks moral integrity. It is clearly not a family friendly show, and I actually find it offensive in different parts. The town has a public brothel, and happens to be ran by the sister of the mayor. She services the main character, Nolan, in the very first episode. This open and legal prostitution is supposedly accepted behavior in the future.  Episode 3 opens up with a sex scene in which Kenya pours grease on a man in a sexual way. I think it is just plain trashy.

Next is the Tarr Family. They are from the alien race, called the Castithans. Their custom is that they all bathe together. There are several scenes in each episode in their bath house or steam room. The matriarch, Stahma Tarr is only covered by very little in strategic places in these scenes. They even act offended in Episode three that Christie McCawley doesn't want to bath openly with their son, Alak Tarr. There is too much raunchiness on this show, and that is one of the main reasons I don't care for it.

The Makeup Could be Better

Out of all of the alien makeups, I would say that Irisa's is the best by far. I don't care for the other alien races presented because none of them seem original. The Bio-Human is probably the most original thing on the show.

Alak Tarr
Some of the Alien makeups in Defiance that are just shoddy. Alak Tarr's makeup, for example, is obviously not that great, because his tan skin shows through (see picture - he looks silvery, but is supposed to be pale white).

Just hire some of the fine folks that win on the SyFy show, Face-Off.

The Acting is Sub-par

For me, the acting is sub-par. I would say the best actor on the show is Nolan, played by Grant Bowler, and second best is Irisa, played by Stephanie Leonidas. If you see what Stephanie looks like before make-up, you would be surprised by the huge difference when she comes out.

The rest of the acting is pretty bad. What really bugs me is that several characters act as if their culture has Native American roots. The McCawley family is an integral part of the show. Graham Greene plays Rafe McCawley, the father of Christie McCawley (Nicole Munoz). He has much influence over the town because he owns the mines. His family gives off a Native American vibe, and that sort of works.

However, the Irathient aliens also have a strong spiritual heritage, and have the body painting going on, especially Irisa. It just doesn't work for me. The aliens are not alien enough, when we already have a family representing that Native American essence.

Some characters are simply not believable.

The ex-Mayor who wants to sell out the town to make a buck - not believable. The ex-Mayor's right hand man is also not convincing that he is a bad-guy. Amanda Rosewater is the new mayor, played by Julie Benz, and she just doesn't seem like a political type.

The McCawley Family as a whole just doesn't compell me. Their acting bores me. Defiance should have cast better overall, but especially for Christie McCawley and Alak Tarr. The Romeo and Juliet love story is really what pushes this show, because the whole plot revolved around them. Their characters are so boring that you forget they are even there!

Deputy Tommy LaSalle is not bad, but shouldn't there be more deputies? Where are the other law dogs?

Alien Rituals Are Disturbing

In Episode two, the Castithans wanted to pull one of their own apart, limb by limb, because he was too afraid to fight. Honestly, this was not a great episode. It was quite boring.

Irisa embracing her Irathient heritage
Who cares about this alien that we don't even know?

I surely don't.

In Episode three, the Irathient Spirit Riders leader wants to unlock Irisa's "psychic" abilities using a ritual where he has to cut himself. This is just disturbing, and is not needed.

Psychic abilities and cutting is not needed to make this a good show.

Good writers are needed to salvage this wreck.

The viewers do not want to see the Tarr family in their bath tub every other scene. Stop showing us the same sex scenes over and over.

Not only do viewers not care about these boring and disturbing rituals, but it does not add to the show.

If you don't believe me, just watch Stargate SG1 or Stargate Atlantis. They know how to make compelling alien races without showing us the mundane stuff that we don't care about.

Defiance is Not So Original

There is one alien race that was created as Defiance's version of a Wookie. This was sort of intentional. But then the Tarr family is Castithan, and they are remarkably reminiscent of the vampire alien race in Stargate: Atlantis called the Wraith. And then there are the Irathients. They have large eyebrow ridges, bigger eyes, and puffy faces. They are remarkably close to vampires (when they are in vamp form) in the show Angel (1999 - 2004). In fact, the Bio-Human has even been done. It's called Terminator.

What's original about this show? It's a mash-up of other shows from the past.

Then, you have the eerily similar feel to the past FOX show, Terra Nova (2011). Yes, Terra Nova was in the past, but they built their compound with high-tech gagdetry, and was in the middle of nowhere. Sounds just like Defiance, only Defiance is not family friendly, and Terra Nova was. Terra Nova's filming was much richer in colors. Defiance seems to be filmed in gray, and the gloominess is overwhelming.

Then you have Firefly, which was like a "space cowboys." The town of Defiance has a wild west grit to it, filled with lackluster alien races and a brothel for the miners. Firefly even had their own companion aboard the ship, but in Firefly, there wasn't an over-gratuitous helping of sex every episode. It was much more subtle and only hinted at in conversations.

Commentary on Defiance

I do want to say that I think it was a pretty good move to launch a video game and a show at the same time. That way, if the video game is good, the show can compliment it. But, if the show is no good, well, the video game better be pretty good to make up for it.

I think SyFy Executives probably got pretty excited about the Defiance television series because they were coming across a lot of losers, but the show honestly feels like it has no soul. It takes talent to act, to write, and to sell a show. I think SyFy has the marketing part of it down, but they seriously needed better actors and actresses (it doesn't necessarily have to be stars we've heard of), and they need some better writers.
It is an ambitious undertaking with such a large set built, but there are no great actors on this show. I just don't see the chemistry there, and it has lost me as a viewer for the other reasons mentioned.

My observation is that Defiance does not have longevity because the writers think that you have to shove sex in our faces, rather than be subtle. It makes the show trashy. Sex does not make a good show. The Tarr family sex scenes do not keep the story moving along. They actually slow it down.

The disturbing rituals that involve cutting to unlock psychic powers was the final straw. I am not going to watch a show that incorporates serious issues that real people face -- and struggle with.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Leaves A Waxy Residue On My Imax 3D Glasses

Star Trek Crew in new movie
The new Star Trek crew in the movies
Original Star Trek Crew Made of Wax
Original Star Trek crew made out of wax

Star Trek: Into Darkness leaves a waxy residue on my IMAX 3D glasses. I'll tell you why.

J.J. Abrams has openly admitted that he did not grow up a Star Trek fan. He is in fact a Star Wars fan. So much so that he now has an opportunity to direct the new Star Wars movie, which is now owned by Disney.

J.J. Abrams created a CGI heavy movie (I call it waxy) that is full of non-stop action. But if you actually stop to think about some of the things going on, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the preposterous unbelievably ridiculousness of it all. It is all a wax illusion of Star Trek, but the heart of Star Trek is just not there. The Imax 3D  does not fool me with all the pretty scenery of red forests and shiny ships. 

After reading countless movie reviews for Star Trek: Into Darkness, I'm tired of hearing the same nonsense over and over again. All of these reviews say how wonderful the movie is because J.J. Abrams was not a Trekkie and has no attachment to the franchise. I wonder about these critics.

Any reviewer that says a movie is awesome, but does not connect to it in an emotional way should not be reviewing movies.

I've talked with many Star Trek fans, and they are upset about the new movie. It is a re-hash of stale formulas, and the story has so many plot holes that it can't hold water.

Surprises in Star Trek: Into Darkness:

  1. Kirk dies. Not Spock. Yeah yeah, I know this is a new timeline.
  2. Kirk is revived with Khan's blood. Umm, why does Khan's blood have resurrecting powers?
  3. Khan does not die in the end. He is merely captured and put in Warehouse 31.
  4. Christopher Pike dies in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Didn't see that coming.
  5. Former Robocop (Peter Weller) is a crooked Admiral and dies in the movie.
  6. Spock falls into an active volcano and survives
  7. Khan beams from Earth to Qo'nos. Isn't that a far distance to beam by teleporter?
  8. There is only one man guarding the bad Dreadnaut ship. What is this, Austin Powers?
  9. Lastly, Spock feels the need to mind meld with Christopher Pike before he dies. That's just plain morbid. (See secret pictures below from the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie)
Kirk talking to Spock in cave in first Star Trek movie
Christopher Pike being tortured by Nero
Spock wants to feel Christopher Pike's pain

Ultimately, die hard fans of Star Trek are upset by J.J. Abrams choice of a weak storyline.

Most critics do point out that the acting is good, especially the part of Khan played by Benedict Cumberbatch. 

I too, am a fan of Sherlock, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but I am an even bigger Star Trek fan.

You know, I get excited just thinking about how the new Star Trek movie would introduce the Klingons. After you meet them in Star Trek: Into Darkness, you feel like they aren't the warriors that the shows portrayed them as. I think he is going for the surprise factor when the guy removes his Roman soldier-esque helmet, and a Klingon is revealed.

Where are their Birds of Prey? Where are their warrior suits?

This is the introduction of the Klingons in this version of the reboot, since they didn't make the cut in the last movie.

Klingons are supposed to be big and bad, not defenseless and sad. Not in my world, anyways, but in J.J. Abrams world, they are not even the Klingons we know and love.

And with that, I make my case.

Opening Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons; by JoshBerglund19

Friday, May 10, 2013

Iron Man 3: A Good Ending for Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downy Jr. in Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3 Poster; by Spigot

Iron Man 3 was exciting and impressive and a great ending for Robert Downey Jr. We probably won't be seeing him any more in the Iron Man suit.

Does this make you sad?

Spoilers ahead.

What Didn't Work and Movie Flaws

Let's go ahead and talk about the movie flaws and things I didn't think worked in Iron Man 3:

  1. The Mandarin was not a real bad guy. In the Iron Man comic and Marvel Universe, the Mandarin is a real bad guy. He isn't some puppet, and he definitely isn't a stage actor named "Trevor" as we saw in Iron Man 3. They got it seriously wrong in the movie.
  2. Tony Stark was dumb by giving his personal home address to the press. Why did he think he could defend his mansion from terrorists? This endangered Pepper Potts' life. Not cool.
  3. Tony Stark's Iron Man suit flew from Rose Hill, TN to Miami, FL in less than 5 minutes. That doesn't seem realistic. Why was one boot and hand blaster not locked in the shed charging, while the rest of the suit was locked in the shed?
  4. Why does Tony Stark say that "I'll always be Iron Man." at the end of the movie, but he blew up his new family of suits after victory? If he plans to continue, then why blow up perfectly good suits? That didn't make sense.
Tom Cruise in Iron Man suit
Tom Cruise as Iron Man?
Kevin Feige, "Iron Man" trilogy producer and Marvel Studios President, said The Mandarin role didn't work. The role was in the first Iron Man movie until 10 weeks before filming. You can read more about his comments here.

Jon Favreau did not direct Iron Man 3, but still played the role of Happy Hogan, the new head of security for Stark Industries. This article says he didn't direct Iron Man 3 because his relationship with Marvel Studios become strained.

Tom Cruise wanted to play Iron Man back in the 90's but I think Robert Downy Jr. is a better Iron Man. Too bad they can't convince him to come back for Avengers 2.

Don't forget to wait at the end of the movie credits to see Tony Stark talking to Bruce Banner in a therapy session. Bruce Banner reminds him that he isn't "that kind of a doctor, because he doesn't have the temperance for it."

It is pretty clear by the way this movie ended, that Robert Downey Jr. will not be returning as Iron Man.

What made it even more obvious was a Twitter chat with Kevin Feige on Friday, May 10, 2013. In this Twitter Q & A, Kevin Feige avoided any questions regarding the return of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
More on that can be read here.

Even More Unsettling Trilogy News

New Star Trek fans may get upset to know that J.J. Abrams said it is very unlikely that he will be directing a third Star Trek movie. Read about it here.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Harvard Created RoboBee: The World's Smallest Robot

The World's Smallest Flying Robot
RoboBee created by Harvard

Harvard University has created the world's smallest flying robot, dubbed RoboBee. It measures 3 cm. and is the smallest device ever made that can fly. By the way, RoboBee was modeled by using the inspiration of a fly to create the wings.

RoboBee actually has wings that beat 120 times per second. As you can see in the picture above, it is about the size of a penny. Each wing on the RoboBee can be controlled separately, and are made using a piezoelectric actuator. A piezoelectric actuator is a ceramic strip that moves when electricity runs across it. As you can imagine, the ceramic strips are very thin and are connected by thin plastic hinges, allowing the wings to move back and forth.

The only catch to RoboBee is that it does not have an onboard power supply, but currently gets electricity via power supply wires, so it is not wireless yet. So while it is the world's smallest flying robot, it is still limited to where it can go at the moment by the wire to the power source. RoboBee can last from 10 to 15 minutes tethered to the power supply before the plastic hinges connected to the wings give out.

Harvard engineers still has several problems that they cannot solve with RoboBee:

  1. Robobee cannot hold the world's smallest encapsulated microchips, as it is too small (thus the robots cannot have any software to make intelligent choices on its own)
  2. RoboBee has onboard vision sensors, but the data is relayed to the brain subsystem to be decoded. Harvard is trying to create hardware accelerators to fix this problem.
  3. There is no power supply onboard (as mentioned earlier). Adding a power supply would add weight, and would require a larger propulsion system (bigger wings).

RoboBee is quite remarkable in that engineers created them by cutting designs from sheets, layered them, and folded them, very much like Origami.

There is already discussion of how RoboBees could be used for covert surveillance. This would be very similar to what we saw with the exploding fireflies seen in G.I. Joe: Retalliation (2013).

A more docile use of RoboBee would be for search and rescue operations.

The video seen below is when the RoboBee took off for the first time.

Friday, May 03, 2013

How to Remove Dish Network Auto-Pay Without Getting Charged for Free HD

Remove Dish Network auto-pay
Removing Dish Network auto-pay is thumbs up

There is a way to remove the Dish Network auto-pay without getting charged for Free HD service.

Do you want to know how?

I was frustrated to know that I had to have the auto-pay feature locked to yes in order to receive Free HD service from Dish Network. It seemed to me that Free HD isn't free if there are stipulations tied to it. I didn't want auto-pay locked to yes because I like to have full control of what money is coming out of my bank accounts. I would rather pay them on my time. I wanted to remove the auto-pay from my account.

Free HD should not be tied to whether or not a customer has auto-pay enabled or not. It seems like Dish Network is afraid that customers won't pay if they don't have the auto-pay feature turned on. If a customer is going to pay, you will know it. If someone is going to default on payment, there is nothing that a company can do to stop it. Auto-pay is like having a little insurance to keep customers from forgetting, but if there is no money in that account, there is a kink in the chain.

I was frustrated with the whole Free HD for life, unless of course you want to not have the auto-pay feature enabled.

When I checked my email, I discovered that my auto-pay bill had failed.

What? How Could My Dish Payment Have Failed?

I do not understand how or why my Dish payment failed. I called the Dish Network number to talk with a representative. They did not know why my Dish payment failed.

I thought that to be strange, since the card is still active. So I figured the email that I received was a phishing scam, because it asked me to go to a link and log in and update my billing information.

Implications from Dish Payment Failure

I got on my computer and went to the Dish Network site (not through the email). I logged in and saw some special messages to me from Dish Network in yellow. (See screenshot on right). It says that my auto-pay has been turned off because my auto-pay bill payment failed.

I was surprised to see this message. However, I am also somewhat relieved at the same time. I didn't want auto-pay enabled in the first place, and now I no longer have auto-pay enabled. Since Dish Network deactivates in this manner, I get to keep Free HD without incurring the HD charge of $10 a month.

If you do not want auto-pay activated, and want to keep Free HD without being charged, you would have to  have the same situation happen to you. Auto-pay must fail. Dish Network then deactivates auto-pay. Keep Free HD. It's that simple.

sign for dish
dish network sign

Opening Image source: Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic; by .reid.

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